Proposed UK legislation based on perception rather than reality

Thanks to Kate over at, I was alerted to this proposed UK legislation regarding ecigarettes. That any anti-ecigarette moves are taking place in the UK is particularly disturbing since it appeared to be free of the nonsensical opposition in many other parts of the world.

The excerpt reads:
“The inability to easily distinguish between a normal and an e-cigarette leads to confusion and upset amongst the public which can give rise to complaints as they believe that breaches of the legislation are taking place, and they are being subjected to cigarette smoke whilst in a no-smoking area. The use of e-cigarettes in premises where the law prohibits smoking could well encourage people to smoke, either in the mistaken belief that the law does not apply or is not being enforced, or that the individuals concerned will not be noticed and reported. There is also real potential for public order offences being committed where individuals are approached and asked or told to stop and this is challenged.”

1. That the potential confusion and upset of a member of the public on witnessing someone smoking should actually form the basis of a legal action is absurd. For instance, it is difficult to tell the difference between a skilled car thief making off and a legitimate owner driving off (or that common case of a driver having locked their keys in the car and attempting to break into their own vehicle). The onus is on the observer to prove the crime and not on the person to appear innocent.

Our society is built on trust, and even if that trust can be manipulated by some, it still remains the best approach. Better to assume that people are driving their own cars than to assume they are not.

2. And to say that e-smoking (vaping) will encourage people to smoke tobacco, though possible, is still not worth supporting. Again, it is similar to saying that thinking erroneously that people are stealing cars would lead to more car theft. It just might but it does not justify the theft, nor does it justify any legislative response.

3. And third, “There is also real potential for public order offences being committed where individuals are approached and asked or told to stop and this is challenged”. Would this not apply to any situation where an action, legal or not, is challenged by another? They are actually arguing that just because someone might defend their right to continue performing a legal action, or that another might assault them because they think they are doing something illicit, that it should be made illegal.

In summary, I might become confused and upset because I misinterpret any number of things but I would not want to see changes in the legal system even if it would make those misinterpretations less likely because I do not want to be limited by other people’s false assumptions. Even in this virulent anti-tobacco culture, the onus must be on the complainer to prove the case, not the vaper to appear to be innocent.


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  • James Dunworth  On January 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I must admit we were rather sad and confused about this aspect of the proposed legislation. The other aspect of the proposed legislation, i.e. electronic cigarettes not being sold to those under the age of 18, is something that we can all support.

    I agree with you, however, that we to say e-smoking will cause people to take up smoking is wrong. There is no evidence to suggest that smoking electronic cigarettes leads to smoking tobacco – and as Dr Adrian Payne pointed out in an interview with us, if there had been some we would have heard of it. Bad news travels fast, especially when there are so many anti-nicotine extremists desperately looking for anything negative connected to the electronic cigarette.

    Furthermore, as you are aware, our survey of several hundred electronic cigarette smokers clearly demonstrated that e-cigarette smokers are ex-tobacco smokers, not new nicotine addicts. Dr Murray Laugeson’s main concern is that there is not enough nicotine in the product to satisfy existing smokers, which suggests that it’s ability to hook people who did try the device out of curiousity would be reduced.

    On a personal note, I’d argue that on the basis we live in a free society, if someone over the age of 18 wanted to take up a product that was both addictive and harmful, they should be allowed to do so. (And if I was a parent, I would rather they took up the electronic cigarette than a product which all the scientists we have spoken to have told us carried a hundred times the risk cigarettes!)

    I think the opposite of what the letter argues (that the device could create new smokers) could also be true. Smokers who would have tried the electronic cigarette could be put off by any legislation, resulting in them staying with a product which is a known killer.

    The final point, that electronic cigarettes could cause a public disturbance, seems a very weak one to me. However, in dealing with it we have to note that we have not heard of one case of the electronic cigarette causing a public disturbance – in fact, most of our customers have told us it has resulted in an interesting discussion. (And if people don’t believe that what they are smoking is an electronic cigarette, grinding it out in the corner of your eye is a very quick way to persuade them they are wrong.)

  • Jonathan Bagley  On January 6, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Any such legislation would be impossible to enforce. ecigs are odourless. I could smoke one now, in my office in the UK and nobody would know. People, if they want to, will smoke them in work vehicles, in pub toilets, if not in pubs themselves. The airline Ryanair recently started selling ecigs on its flights, so it won’t be long before most of the public understands the difference between ecigs and cigarettes. Interestingly, the authorities are not seeking a ban on health grounds. Is this an indication that time is almost up for the passiive smoking fraud?

  • Joe Phillips  On January 26, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    It had a great reception in the US. But then the ecigarette had a smear campaign shot at them from the FDA. It was recently proven wrong by the court system. They are not free to be imported for people to try. I still think even if they are better for you than tobacco, they should prohibit the sell and marketing to minors.

  • James Dunworth  On January 26, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I don’t think anyone has a problem with them being prohibited from being sold to minors.


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