Where are you allowed to ‘Smoke’ E-Cigarettes in the UK?

Prior to the ban on smoking in public places that came into force in the UK from the 1st July 2007, people used to be able to smoke in pubs, undercover train stations, cafes and even certain workplaces. This meant that smokers could enjoy a cigarette whilst socialising, sitting down or whilst protecting themselves from the awful weather, and carry on with their day-to-day lives without having to disappear from view.

The smoking ban started out in Scotland the year previously, and when popular pub chains like Wetherspoons started introducing a ban in the their establishments, people started taking more notice, and put pressure on the government to legislate a ban on smoking across all public places.

The success of the Scotland ban led to Wales, Northern Ireland and England implementing the ban in March, April and July respectively. It was then phased in slowly but surely, starting with a ban on smoking in NHS and government buildings in 2006, in enclosed public places in 2007, and finally with pubs, bars and restaurants by the end of 2008.

Effects of the Ban and the Rise of E-Cigarettes

From the moment the ban kicked in, smokers felt prejudiced against and marginalised, and as a result, led to an increase in people quitting smoking. But the introduction of e-cigarettes (and their subsequent surge in popularity) soon gave a smokeless option for people to enjoy nicotine without the unpleasant taste of nicotine gum or side effects of nicotine patches.

When e-cigarettes were first launched, they were met with hostility and confusion from certain parties, who felt that they were being marketed as a “cool alternative” to smoking tobacco, and would lead to a rise in young people vaping in a bid to fit in with the latest trends.

But following extensive research, people soon started to see that there were significantly less health risks than there would be from cigarettes and the inhalation of second-hand smoke, due to the fact that e-cigarettes are completely smokeless and don’t contain the cocktail of dangerous chemicals in a standard tobacco cigarette or cigar.

As a result, e-cigarettes were allowed to be smoked in certain places, and some marketing companies initially claimed they could legally be smoked anywhere. This was seen as a marketing ploy to boost their popularity, but it made people more aware of the rules and regulations regarding exactly where you can or cannot vape without landing yourself in hot water or ruffling feathers.

Where are e-cigarette smokers allowed to vape?

In order to answer this question, you need to be aware of the legal definition of a public place, which according to British law, is somewhere either indoors or outdoors that is accessible to the general public with or without payment. However, if that property is owned by somebody – a restaurant or bar, for example – you are only allowed to vape with your e-cigarette if there are no objections from the property owner or manager.

Over time, more information from important and learned sources is being released about e-cigarettes and vaping, including what exactly is involved in the vaping process and the contents of an e-cigarette. People are now able to make smart and informed choices rather than jumping on the bandwagon and shouting their disapproval from the rooftops. For example, many people who oppose of vaping are not actually aware that e-cigarettes are completely free from smoke, carbon monoxide and odours, as well as not involving any lighting. Technically, this means that they don’t pose a health and safety risk to the smoker or the people around you.

Although many places allow for vaping, you should never enter a premises and start vaping without checking the establishment’s rules on smoking e-cigarettes. It could be that they don’t allow for it, or have designated areas for it within the building. Either way, it’s always best to check. This includes your workplace, too. Check with your Human Resources department to see if there is a policy in place regarding vaping. If there isn’t one, there soon will be if you have brought it to their attention.

Many workplaces are setting policies on smoking e-cigarettes at work, including setting smoking areas that are specific to vaping, and allowing or banning vaping at your desk. As the popularity of vaping grows further in the next few years, expect to see many more businesses making changes and implementing rules and regulations in this regard.

Certain places do not allow the use of e-cigarettes to avoid any confusion. For example, you cannot vape on aeroplanes, trains or buses at the moment. This is to avoid any situation where other passengers might see it as a green light to start smoking actual cigarettes.

Cinema chains such as Odeon and Empire – and the majority of theatres across the UK – do not allow e-cigarettes to be smoked during films as this makes it easier for their ushers to police a darkened room, and defuses any opportunity for disgruntled patrons to take issue with being distracted or put off by vaping during the course of the show.

Several of the major supermarkets – including Sainsbury’s and Asda – do not allow vaping, apart from in designated areas, and Wetherspoons have implemented the same rules across their multiple public houses. In the majority of individual shops and pubs, the rules on vaping depends solely on the agreement and discretion of the owner.

The best course of action is to use your head and check before you vape in public places. Use your judgement and good manners and ask before you start using your e-cigarette in somebody else’s home or car. There are still some restrictions as to where you can use your e-cigarette outside of your own home, but you can vape in more places than you would be able to smoke.

The more that time passes, the more education on vaping and e-cigarettes in general will be rolled out and understood by the population at large. Until then, make sure that you check for signs in public places, and always ask for permission before you start vaping. Follow these guidelines and there shouldn’t be any reason for any confusion or trouble.



Tash Cox is one of the founders of Primo Vape, an e-liquid specialist in Cambridge UK. Tash was most recently employed by one of the biggest U.S. independent eliquid companies. Tash has a long background in sales, with FMCG experience in a variety of sectors. All the team are passionate about vaping, especially its benefits over combustible cigarettes when quality is ensured through robust production.