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This week's news that Irish Rail is banning vaping on both trains and stations is disappointing but perhaps not unexpected and certainly no cause for panic.
Yes, vapers will react strongly to the news and yes, the arguments for and against vaping will be put forward by both sides of the vaping division. But let’s look at the positives – the issue is once again in the headlines, the pros and cons are being debated and Irish Rail is not simply banning vaping, it is offering explanations for its decision and this means they are conscious of offending a strengthening community of vapers.
Both Sides Of The Tracks
Let’s look at this debate from the other side - to the uninitiated and, perhaps, misinformed - vaping is still very much associated with the smoking of traditional cigarettes. From a distance the ‘look-a-like’ models appear very much as tobacco cigarette substitutes – they look the same, they light up red at the end and produce a vapour that could be construed as smoke. Like it or not the majority of us follow by nature, so if we see this happening at one end of a station a cigarette smoker may well light-up thinking “Well, I’m not the first and if he’s smoking it must be okay here”.
A spokesman for the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association has stated that he believes this ambiguous element put forward by Irish Rail is a poor argument, but I disagree. Prior to my vaping initiation, I would have been a little confused about seeing a glowing tip and 'smoke' at the end of a platform or crowded carriage, when factors which distinguish e-cigarette use were not immediately apparent – lack of tobacco smell, quickly dispersing vapour etc.
Next is the passive element to vaping – as vapers we choose to believe that the vapour holds no passive danger – we believe the initial studies which state that no toxins are exhaled. However, the non-vaper has not considered the available research and looked at the stats but has merely relied on media biased vaping reporting and political opinions, a significant number of which use uninformed, alarmist and non-factual data founded in the tobacco smoking associations of electronic cigarettes. Is it any surprise that somebody would complain upon sitting next to a vaper on a train? Probably not.
What’s Down The Line?
I believe that taking a defensive stance is counter-productive to the long term goal of making vaping socially recognised and acceptable. The objective now should be discussion – engage with Irish Rail, and as vaping becomes increasingly popular and more research is carried out, vaping associations will be in a prime position to suggest ideas such as a vaping carriage or a vaping room in the stations themselves as vaping will be a socially understood phenomena.
Vaping is such a new concept and the electronic cigarette is still very much aligned to the tobacco version in many people’s minds, which means decisions are somewhat based on fear and confusion. But this is a marathon not a sprint – for example, today’s Irish Daily Mail also has an article exploring the dangers of caffeine, highlighting it’s affects as an addictive drug – so will Irish Rail ban station coffee shops or your cappuccino on the train – I think not. How someone takes life’s little legal stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol or nicotine is a personal and adult decision.
As vaping and information on nicotine as a stimulant, away from its tobacco related history, become more prominent the rules, regulations and acceptance of vaping will change. Our job as a movement is to ensure the facts reach the decision makers and meaningful dialogue is started. So Irish Rail banning vaping should be seen as a starting point not as a definitive stance.
(These are the personal views of purplebox vapours)