Vapor Conflict: E-Cigarettes Ignite Debate About Smoking in Bars and Restaurants

Electronic_Cigarette_Smoking.jpg
Photo by Michael Dorausch
Should Houston ban e-cigarettes in restaurants and bars?
I couldn't get anyone I know to speak on the record for this story.

The only regular smokers I know are in the restaurant industry, and in spite of the fact that anyone can see them smoking outside between shifts, no one wanted to admit to smoking e-cigarettes.

"Is it because e-cigarettes look kind of silly?" I asked. "Or is it because you don't want to give the impression that you're harming your palates with nicotine?"

No, and no, everyone said. They just didn't want to talk about it. Then they would turn away and continue puffing on a device that resembles a shiny ballpoint pen.

People are starting to talk more about e-cigarettes, though, as the once-oddball implements are becoming more common everywhere from the classroom to the boardroom and many restaurants in between. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the New York City Council announced that it would add e-cigarettes to the 2002 Smoke-Free Air Act, effectively banning them from all public places. Though the ban will ultimately come down to a vote, it's raising a question that many have so far neglected to answer: Should e-cigarettes be allowed everywhere regular cigarettes are not?

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Photo by TheNorlo
An e-cigarette made to resemble a traditional tobacco cigarette.
In Houston, there are no rules regarding this relatively new phenomenon.

According to our local regulations:

Smoking is prohibited in enclosed public places. Public places are places in which the public is invited or permitted. Restaurants, bars, museums, libraries, public and private schools, convention centers, theaters, bingo halls, bowling alleys, buses, taxicabs, retail establishments, shopping malls, lobbies, restrooms, and hallways of apartment or condominium buildings are a few examples of enclosed public places where smoking is prohibited except under very limited circumstances.

Pretty straightforward until you get to all the rules about how far away you have to be from emergency exits and air vents if you're outside, but that doesn't seem to be a contentious topic. But then there's the question of what constitutes "smoking."

Houston ordinance defines "smoking" as "inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any
lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other lighted tobacco product in any manner or in any form." Logic would follow that because e-cigarettes aren't "lighted," puffing on one doesn't constitute smoking.

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Photo by FergusM1970
It's great that you're being healthier and all, but that looks like a weapon.
When a traditional cigarette is lit, it burns tobacco, which releases smoke containing nicotine. The smoker then inhales, bringing the substance into the lungs. Rather than being lit by a lighter or match, e-cigarettes are battery-powered. They work by turning liquid nicotine into vapor using an atomizer. The user then inhales the vaporized nicotine, which takes nicotine into the lungs and bloodstream, creating the same effect as smoking a traditional cigarette, but without the harmful tobacco, tar and carbon dioxide.

E-cigarettes were invented by a Chinese pharmacist in 2003 and hit the market in China the following year. The smoking devices received an international patent in 2007, but really took off in the U.S. in 2012, when American companies started producing them. They've quickly become popular here, and as a result, individual businesses, cities and states are grappling with how to regulate their use.

Houston has yet to pass any sort of legislation banning e-cigarettes from public places, but Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas, recently decided that, like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes should be banned from the college campus. The only place students can smoke is in their cars.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Underbelly

1100 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Camerata at Paulie's

1834 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Lowbrow Bar

1601 W. Main St, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Tony's Restaurant

3755 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Brennan's of Houston

3300 Smith, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
70 comments
Clomiami
Clomiami

After many unsuccessful attempts at quitting smoking cigarettes, e-cigs have been the only thing that allowed me to move away from tobacco - this gives me a deeper appreciation of the culture and technology surrounding them. As for the public banning, I suppose until more research is done into the effects of the second-hand implications it's just normal societal fear letting people get the best of them and trying to regulate. But please also take care of the following before taking action against vaping - the entire oil refinery industry, field burning, flatulence, overbearing colognes and perfumes, incense, eating too much garlic, eating too much sauerkraut, coughing without proper mouth cover, the smells of downtown all day and night, the smell of homeless people, cigarette butts, etc. etc. With so much other pressing issues, is it really THAT INCONVENIENT FOR YOU for people to smoke these things in your vicinity? The smoke dissipates in a matter of seconds and usually leaves little to no odor - my farts leave a much stronger and more unpleasant odor. I make my own liquids and it literally only contains vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol and SOMETIMES nicotone - the first two can be found in almost every item you use daily. So quit trying to fucking regulate my ecigs before I start trying to regulate your goddamn shampoos that make you smell like a big fucking watermelon.

Toni McPherson
Toni McPherson

I was at a Rockets game the other night and someone was just sitting there vaping and freely blowing vapor all over everyone. If I can't remove myself from the vicinity of your vaping, you should not be allowed to do it in that setting. I couldn't just move my seat and shouldn't have to leave due to someone else's choice. I have a chronic lung illness and allergies and should not be forced to breathe something that I am unaware of.

Jimmy Jeudi
Jimmy Jeudi

Restaurants can do whatever they want.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

I think it's absolutely retarded and utterly asinine for ANYONE to have a problem with where you "smoke" water vapor you can't smell, or have any sort of second-hand issues with whatsoever. The eCigs we smoke are harmless compared to tobacco cigarettes and are quite healthier than that alcoholic beverage the whiney hipster hypocritically complaining about eGics indoors is pouring down his/her own throat. The people idiotic enough to complain about an eCig, in a bar, where deadly alcohol is being consumed, hands down deserve the 2013 Darwin Award. Complete and utter faggotry. SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU WHINEY, COMPLAINING ASSFUCKS and get a clue! Here's one: As for the bars, if you're so worried about public health & safety, your own personal health, and the health & safety of others , you probably shouldn't be in a BAR in the first place *wink* I'm sorry, but trying to ban the use of an eCig indoors is just something that royally hits the "Jesus Christ are you serious??" button. While you're at it ban the heavy use of cologne/perfume, ban ALL hipsters, ban the "meat is murder yet I'm wearing a leather belt" FUCKTARDS, and ban the consumption of alcohol because it's unhealthy and causes more death in America than cigarettes and cancer combined. Fuck me.. People of this country never cease to amaze me. Bias aside, deliberate ignorance is now a fashionable thing.

Jesus Zamorano
Jesus Zamorano

I don't really have a problem with it in bars. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a "smoke" and a drink. It's other places I have a problem with. I work at a store and people always come in puffing away and blowing that shit in my face. That's aggravating. I don't mind if you vape just don't blow it in my face.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

And I addressed the question with "where you "smoke" water vapor". Your argument is completely invalid.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

I think it's absolutely retarded and utterly asinine for ANYONE to have a problem with where you "smoke" water vapor you can't smell, or have any sort of second-hand issues with whatsoever. The eCigs we smoke are harmless compared to tobacco cigarettes and are quite healthier than that alcoholic beverage the whiney hipster hypocritically complaining about eGics indoors is pouring down his/her own throat. And I'll also invalidate the whole "chemicals" rhetoric; water/glycerin/nicotine solutions are far fewer "chemicals" and certainly MUCH LESS harmful than the redbull & vodka you've been drinking all night. The people idiotic enough to complain about an eCig, in a bar, where deadly alcohol is being consumed, hands down deserve the 2013 Darwin Award. Complete and utter faggotry. SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU WHINEY, COMPLAINING ASSFUCKS and get a clue! In short, a ban of eCigs indoors at public drinkeries would be stupid, and completely.. COMPLETELY defeats the purpose of bars; a facility designed specifically for consuming a much, much more harmful all-the-way-around substance called ALCOHOL. Here's a clue: if you're that worried about public health & safety, your own personal health, and the health & safety of others , you probably shouldn't be in a BAR in the first place *wink* For for those worried about facial smoke blowing, what do you expect of a mouth-breather?

Marco LopeZ
Marco LopeZ

Wow... Way to have a tantrum you are good at it, the question also ask about restaurants.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

I think people lacking common sense should be banned from confined public spaces, but that's my opinion and certainly not related to smoking.

sean447
sean447

e-cigs have no smell, the water vapor disappears immediately, and if someone doesn't blow it in your face, its less offensive as  Roger Gent!

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

I already want to stab you in the face repeatedly with your own femur.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

Here's another clue: if you're that worried about public health & safety, your own personal health, and the health & safety of others , you probably shouldn't be in a BAR in the first place *wink*

Javier Gomez
Javier Gomez

But then again, their are probably a handful of people who use E-cigarettes who have never even smoked a real cigarette before.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

And Adam, there are far less "chemicals" in WATER/GLYCERIN/NICOTINE solutions than the redbull and vodka in your hand. Pick a better argument.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

Dude Marco if you said that to me INSIDE the bar, that eCig would be up your ass before you got the next word in. Think about what you're saying. You're in a bar, full of douchebags soaked in cologne you can smell 30 feet away, but you're close enough to me to smell the flavoring, thou art completely out of his element.

Adam Roberts
Adam Roberts

E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA so you don't know what people are smoking in public. Inhaling and exhaling vaporized chemicals is bad for the smokers health and the public's health. This is a public health issue.

Javier Gomez
Javier Gomez

Not as much as girls pretending to be drunk in a bar when they've only had one drink.

Marco LopeZ
Marco LopeZ

Nope. Take it outside. They still have a smell when its flavored vapor. Its like spraying obnoxious perfume in a confined space. Also municipalities that have an indoor smoking ban have people come there and see puffs of vapor thinking its smoke and lights up a cigarette inside.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

I think it's absolutely retarded and utterly asinine for ANYONE to have a problem with where you "smoke" water vapor you can't smell, or have any sort of second-hand issues with whatsoever. The eCigs we smoke are harmless compared to tobacco cigarettes and are quite healthier than that alcoholic beverage the whiney hipster hypocritically complaining about eGics indoors is pouring down his/her own throat. The people idiotic enough to complain about an eCig, in a bar, where deadly alcohol is being consumed, hands down deserve the 2013 Darwin Award. Complete and utter faggotry. SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU WHINEY, COMPLAINING ASSFUCKS and get a clue!

Roger Gent
Roger Gent

Yes, because of the "douche" factor. The people who "vape" are as annoying as the "open carry" assholes. They both have piles of stats that the manufacturers have provided them about how their favorite product is less harmful than this thing or that thing and that therefore they should be allowed to carry their semi-automatic weapons into grocery stores or smoke their e-cigarettes in a restaurant. But if you really look at these people, they only reason they want to 'vape" or carrying their shotguns at McDonalds is because they're douchebags who want to start some sort of Junior College Poli Sci 101 debate and show you that Ron Paul is right and big brother is trying to tell everyone what to do.

NewRider Ivan
NewRider Ivan

If people have a problem with something completely harmless. They need to reach deep in them and get all that sand out of their vagina.

Atomix Sounds
Atomix Sounds

No Smoking , means no smoking. Real, Fake, or otherwise.

Michelle Fodell Speetzen
Michelle Fodell Speetzen

I have been vaping for 2 years. There is no risk of 2nd hand smoke because simply it is NOT smoke it is water vapor. It is the 3000 chemicals in cigarettes that do the harm to the smoker and the non smoker. E-cigs do not contain the chemicals. I find peoples body odor and coughing without covering their mouths and sneezing more offensive.

TexasGirl831
TexasGirl831

I have been vaping for 2 years.  There is no risk of 2nd hand smoke because simply it is NOT smoke it is water vapor.   It is the 3000 chemicals in cigarettes that do the harm to the smoker and the non smoker.  E-cigs do not contain the chemicals.  I find peoples body odor and coughing without covering their mouths and sneezing more offensive.

h_e_x
h_e_x

The vapor still smells a bit. Just go outside with all the real smokers, they won't bite you for smoking some solution most likely made in China.

Ray Hadfield
Ray Hadfield

Yeah,kinda like somebody who has had 10 beers blowing in your face,huh....

Kevin Friddell
Kevin Friddell

Dont mind the e-cigs, but those drunks have got to go!

Casey Buhrer
Casey Buhrer

They're douchie. I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels that way.

Kathy Stabe
Kathy Stabe

It's rude to blow smoke or vapor in someone's face, but a few people with bad manners shouldn't ruin it for everyone. Most people don't behave that way. I have no problem.

Joshua Perez
Joshua Perez

Yes, but only if they are blowing it in my face. Either way, it's still rude to blow smoke in someone's face.

gmcgovern2004
gmcgovern2004

if your worried about your lungs you shouldn't leave your house, with all the car Exhaust, smoke from the refineries, pollen from plants,etc.,its a danger-es world out there for you e-cig juice is made up of stuff in your food, it literally only contains vegetable glycerin and polypropylene glycol, food flavoring, and SOMETIMES nicotine.

and when your cooking be aware of the vaps coming from the pots on your stove.

and here is more for you, i don't drink and the smell of alcohol is nasty but that's ok because i choose to go to a place where people are making many choices, i may or may not like,we live in a city of millions of people its just not possible to please everyone.it wont hurt you any more then cooking dose.

gmcgovern2004
gmcgovern2004

sooooooooooooo, i think it would be good for weight lose, it taste good, no calories, and you can get it with no nicotine 

gmcgovern2004
gmcgovern2004

i don't think so, i think its a control issue. and a tax issue.

gmcgovern2004
gmcgovern2004

i don't like any perfume should you go out side because i don't like the way you smell.

sean447
sean447

@Roger Gent 

Absolute, Redneck Bullshit!

Roger, you singlehandedly represent the "Douche Factor"

gmcgovern2004
gmcgovern2004

but there is no smoke, there is no fire, there is nothing burning.

cgarci611
cgarci611

Wrong, no smoking mean not tobacco products being inhaled and exhaled in a public place where it is banned. But since Vaper Pens or ecigs aren't actual cigarettes or tobacco then your law doesn't apply to me. Sorry. As for everyone complaining, deal with it because no one is going to stop it, especially not me. Also, FYI, these new products have stopped people smoking actual cigarettes and probably have saved lives. Now if you want to complain about that and have them return to dying have that on your conscious, not mine. Maybe other then complaining about crap people get informed and actually worry about something worth worrying about life the crappy government we have to deal with or maybe societal bullshit.  

MadMac
MadMac

Agreed! For my latest attempt to quit, my Mrs. offered me the e-cig option. I'd rather just grown through, cold turkey.

gmcgovern2004
gmcgovern2004

it is rude, however, just because you can see my breath doesn't mean i have less breath when im not vaping. so breathing is offensive to you.

sean447
sean447

@MadMac How did that groaning work for you Mad Mac?

Still smoking?

MadMac
MadMac

No. I'm seven weeks smoke free and as you can tell, I'm just oodles and gobs of happy about it.

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