Cigarette smokers have been kicked around by society for long enough. There used to be a time when most establishments had smoking and non-smoking sections, but in recent years smokers have been booted out of every indoor place imaginable. Smoking bans have swept the world, forcing smokers everywhere to take their habit outdoors. Apparently, the Powers That Be have decided that it’s better to pollute the atmosphere than to pollute the inside of some dive bar or all-night diner.
One way smokers respond to these smoking bans is by using electronic cigarettes. These devices provide the user with a dose of nicotine without producing smoke. Some varieties of electronic cigarettes produce a cloud of harmless water vapor to simulate the appearance of smoke, which adds a touch of realism to the product.
Since electronic cigarettes do not produce smoke, one can logically argue that these devices should be exempt from smoking bans. After all, these products do not burn or produce smoke, so the act of using such a device cannot be referred to as “smoking”. Classifying the use of electronic cigarettes as smoking would be the same thing as injecting alcohol into the bloodstream with a syringe and calling it “drinking”.
By banning electronic cigarettes, we are not sending a message that it’s unhealthy to smoke. We are essentially sending a message which states that smokers are evil people who do evil things and therefore they are not welcome in a particular establishment. The act of banning smoking is one thing, but extending this ban to products which do not produce smoke shows that these bans are directed at the person, not the product. In other words, it amounts to discriminating against those who are smokers, even when they are not technically “smoking”.
Establishments that wish to prohibit the usage of electronic cigarettes would be better off choosing different wording, such as a “nicotine ban” rather than a smoking ban. However, I believe this type of prohibition would be considered unconstitutional as well as unenforceable, since no other customers in a place of business can be adversely affected by electronic cigarettes. The banning of electronic cigarettes would do nothing to improve public safety, therefore such a ban would merely be an act of discrimination. Smoking bans were intended to protect customers from secondhand smoke. Since electronic cigarettes do not even produce “firsthand” smoke, there is no logical reason to ban them.