Should Restaurants Ban Electronic Cigarettes?

(from In 1985, Aspen, CO, became the first town in America to ban smoking in restaurants. It took several years and several more states to prohibit smoking before New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg abolished smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003. That same year, Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, began work on his electronic cigarette.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are personal vaporizers that do not contain tobacco. They deliver nicotine via a cigarette-shaped device. While they don't produce any smoke, they have sparked tremendous controversy about whether or not they should be allowed in public spaces, like restaurants and bars, where traditional cigarettes are prohibited. This year, three new electronic cigarette companies launched in the U.S. One of them, Blu, has been endorsed by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff. The e-cigs are steadily becoming more and more popular.

Some restaurants have created their own rules about the e-cigs. According to Businessweek, New York City restaurateur Gabriel Stulman forbids smoking in his eateries. He told Businessweek, "We do not allow them indoors or outdoors. To me it is a distraction and intrusive, no different than if someone were playing music from their iPhone on the speaker function. Anyone smoking an e-cigarette is forcing their desires and interests on others in a manner with which the other party may not enjoy it. It is the responsibility of the restaurant to try to balance and consider the interests of all of our guests against those of a few."

In Brooklyn, NY, a staffer at The Elm says, "We don't mind them. We actually have had a few guests 'light up' in the dining room." Another Brooklyn restaurant owner, Carlo Mirarachi of Blanca, told Businessweek, "It's never come up." However he added, "We wouldn't allow it during the meal." Almost all the restauranteurs polled agreed that if the electronic cigarettes were bothering other customers, they would ask the smoker to put it away.

In Prince George's County, MD, officials have proposed a bill that would prohibit e-cigarettes in public housing, restaurants, and bars, reports WJLA. If it passes, the bill will be the first in Maryland to ban e-cigarettes.

In Tulsa, a restaurant called Fat Guys made the nightly news when it posted a sign saying that its no-smoking policy included e-cigarettes. At California's state universities, the campus-wide smoking bans extends to electronic cigarettes. The East Bay Express reports that some campuses like UCLA and UCSB have implemented the smoke-free policy, while others will begin to do so at the beginning of 2014. And in England, they are faced with the same question: Should restaurants allow e-cigarettes? Though there is no real smoke, the Daily Mail reports that some diners are being put off by the odorless vapor given off by the electronic version.