E-cigarettes blow fog into ban on D.C. Metro


The Washington Post

Smoking’s not allowed on Washington’s Metro system. But what about e-smoking?

The week before last, I was riding on the Orange Line when I saw a woman holding what I thought was a high-end felt-tip marker. It had a round barrel that tapered to a narrower point. Then she stuck the narrow end in her mouth, sucked, and blew out a white cloud.

It didn’t smell like cigarette smoke, at least from where I was sitting. It seemed like more of a vapor. And, indeed, that’s what it was.

The modern nicotine-delivery device — the electronic cigarette — doesn’t produce smoke. Nicotine-infused liquid is heated, creating a vapor that the user inhales and then exhales.

In the blessedly cigarette-free Metro, it was jarring to see the woman “vape.” (That’s the term the e-cig community has adopted for what they do.) People are still figuring out how to treat the devices. The Department of Transportation said it was going to ban them on airline flights and then decided to defer to individual airlines. In Hawaii, the buses of the Oahu Transit Services implemented a ban May 1.

But what about on Metro? Things are as hazy as a cloud of smoke from an unfiltered Camel.

“What most people don’t realize is that it is actually local ordinances that govern what’s prohibited on Metro,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

In 2010, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II ruled that the state’s smoking ban does not apply to electronic cigarettes. On the other hand, the D.C. Council is considering the Electronic Cigarette Parity Amendment Act of 2013, which would classify fake cigarettes pretty much the same as real ones.

It’s possible to envision a time when e-smokers puff away on Metro in Virginia and then put away their cigarettes when they cross the Potomac.

What about now? Will you get in trouble for using an electronic cigarette on the Metro?

“I think it’s unclear,” Dan said. “I think this is a conversation that the legislative bodies are just beginning to consider. I think it will be something that there’s increasing clarity around as we move forward in time.”

In an online forum for e-cigarette smokers, a user complained that he was cited for vaping in the New York subway system. Another user responded: “Do us all a favor and don’t draw negative attention to us. If you aren’t supposed to smoke somewhere, don’t vape there.”

That makes sense to me.

Please sit down

Meanwhile, the Wave has become the subject of some debate at Nationals Park in D.C., even among the Nats players.

I’m firmly in the anti-Wave crowd, not because I’m a baseball purist — I love such recent innovations as the KissCam, the Racing Presidents and the T-shirt toss — but because I’m against anything that might endanger the safety of my beer. For what I paid for it, I don’t want to risk losing a single drop.

Not that I’m militant about it. I will greet your Wave with a meh. I get more worked up over two other extracurricular activities at the ballpark:

Can people, please, stop shouting “O!” during the national anthem’s “O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave” lyric? That’s a holdover from the days when the Baltimore Orioles — the O’s — were the nearest team we baseball-starved fans in Washington had to root for. “O!” doesn’t belong here. It belongs in Baltimore. Only a few people do it — many fewer than when the Nats first came to town — but even one is one too many.

I also don’t understand why people stand up and remove their hats for “God Bless America,” which is occasionally played late in the game.

I’ve noticed that when “God Bless America” comes on, many seated fans look at each other nervously, as if unsure what to do. Some will stand, figuring that anything with both “God” and “America” in the title is worthy of respect. Once a few people start standing, others follow suit. Nobody wants to be seen as anti-American.

But this isn’t the national anthem.

It’s a slippery slope. What’s next? Standing for “This Land Is Your Land”? Standing for “A Horse With No Name” because it was recorded by America?

Stretch if you like during “GBA” — or even stand if you want. But don’t feel that you have to stand. And don’t give anyone else the hairy eyeball because they choose not to rise to the occasion.

John Kelly writes “John Kelly’s Washington,” a daily look at Washington’s less-famous side.

  • Sam Moshe

    Look man. I don’t know about sports, but I do know that e-cigarettes have yet to harm anyone. Smoking bans are not in place because cigarette smoke is annoying. They’re in place because smoking is a public health risk. Vaping is not. It’s really that simple. You can choose personally to like or not like it, but fact is fact. I’m sorry.

    • Dick_Puddlecote

      “Smoking bans are not in place because cigarette smoke is annoying. They’re in place because smoking is a public health risk.”

      No, that’s the excuse. Ironically, the movement against e-cigs is still conditioned to the lies they used to tell so they are trying to do the same with e-cigs. Sadly for them, it is hollow and as unbelievable to the public as passive smoking was in the early 80s when they began to fabricate ‘evidence’ (Google “Godber blueprint”).

      So they are using the ‘renormalising’ tobacco use excuse now (while still dropping health scares in from time to time without any evidence whatsoever.

      These people are career prohibitionists and should be ignored. Many of them have never released a truthful comment in their lives, they are US alcohol prohibition nutters revisited.

      Smoking bans are, indeed, in place because cig smoke is annoying, it’s the only reason. E-cig vapour is now annoying to the same people because they see ex-smokers getting away with it and not wearing the hair shirt spiteful tobacco control demanded of them by way of revenge for earlier times.

      • Sam Moshe

        Well, maybe. But that would be an argument on the validity of the “science” of whether or not second hand smoke is dangerous. What you have supporting the bans is a highly questionable government funded study from the 90’s. In other words, it’s something. The bans are based on some kind of science because they have to be. At present, there isn’t so much as one study from a credible scientific body that concludes that e-cigarettes are dangerous, or in the least bit harmful to anyone. Adding them to bans invalidates already dubious scientific reasoning, and legally invalidates the bans.

  • IMTrick

    Sam’s right. We really shouldn’t get into a mindset that it’s OK to start passing laws banning things because we don’t like how it looks. Cigarette bans in enclosed spaces make sense — there are real health risks. There are none for e-cigarettes.

    People should be able to do what they want in public as long as it’s not hurting anyone, and vaping isn’t hurting anyone. Do we really want to become a country where what we can or can’t do is determined by the whims of people who’d just rather not see it?

  • My thoughts on vaping are simple. I’ll vape where I want. These money hungry government aholes will squeeze a coin out of anything they can. I been cig free for over a month with my ecig. I vaped in the bank. In the grocery store. Even a maternity ward in a hospital just to prove I can. I work at an ecig store and people seem to be more concerned about the chemicals in our ejuice than the 4000 chemicals in the cigarette they smoke in front of me. There’s no smoke about this. There is no tobacco in it. Can’t magically rename a product just so the Gov can tax and ban it. #Merica