Smokefree Policies: Smoking and vaping in public places
Could smokefree policies actually make vapers that have stopped smoking smoke a cigarette when new policies are adopted?
“I only smoke at work. At home and with friends, I always vape”.
That is not the kind of thing you expect to hear from a colleague at PHE, but it is exactly what I was told when I visited one of our sites to discuss changes to our smoke-free policy.
That is a problem, because when PHE, RSPH, and others agreed our consensus statement on e-cigarettes, we said: “The public health opportunity is in helping smokers to quit, so we may encourage smokers to try vaping but we certainly encourage vapers to stop smoking tobacco completely.”
A key plank of PHE’s position is that vaping is not the same as smoking. You might prohibit both but you shouldn’t treat them as if they are the same, and this was a ruling of a recent Employment Tribunal.
But not everybody agrees, and in the US, smoke-free legislation has often been extended to include vaping. At a meeting with staff, one of the smokers had explained to me that our original policy meant that he had to go all the way off-site and, if he had to do that, the only way he would get the dose and duration of the nicotine he craved was to smoke.
Many will think “or he could just quit” and that is fair enough, but in effect, he had quit. He only smokes when policies make it too inconvenient to vape. It was an interesting lesson in the unintended consequences of health policies.