Tobacco smoke isn’t just dangerous to the smoker — it’s dangerous to anyone who’s exposed to it, which is why smoking has been banned in most public places. But vapers exhale only water vapor, so that must mean vaping is allowed even in places where smoking isn’t, right? Actually, the truth is much more complex.

Can I Vape Here? The Dos and Don’ts of Vaping at Work, on the Bus, or Anywhere Else

The following is a guest contribution from Cher Z.  As always the content of guest spots is entirely the work and opinion of the author.

If you’ve made the switch to e-cigs from traditional tobacco products, you may be able to vape publically in some restaurants, bars, and even in other places where smoking is banned, like the office. But, in the absence of any legal regulations, companies and proprietors are left to make their own policies on the matter. Vaping is banned in many locations, so it’s always a good idea to ask before vaping, and when in doubt, go outside.

Some May Mistake Vaping for Smoking

Many companies, in particular airlines, ban vaping out of a concern that customers who smoke might mistake the e-cigarette for a regular cigarette and decide that it must be okay to smoke traditional tobacco products on the plane or in the airport. It’s also not unheard of for non-smokers to see the clouds of water vapor emanating from a vaper’s lips, assume the substance is tobacco smoke, and lodge a complaint. Some might even be bold enough to take the matter up directly with the “offending” party. For these reasons, many companies feel that it’s best to preemptively ban vaping, and avoid any confusion that could cause real problems.

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Though e-cigarettes produce only water vapor instead of secondhand smoke, some companies may worry about the effect e-cigarettes can have on casual bystanders. In many cases, it’s the bystanders themselves who raise the alarm, mostly out of a lack of understanding how e-cigarettes work. For a number of restaurants, bars, and workplaces, the prospect of upsetting non-smoking patrons and employees is enough of a reason to ban vaping.

“Do You Mind If I Vape?”

It’s generally considered poor form to vape in situations from which bystanders can’t escape, such as on public transit. The water vapor produced by vaping may be harmless, but that doesn’t mean everyone around you wants to inhale it. You should also avoid vaping in museums or galleries, or in darkened theaters, where the plumes of vapor and glowing tip of an e-cig could distract other audience members.

image01You probably won’t be able to get away with vaping inside supermarkets, department stores, or shopping malls, either. Most people also consider it inappropriate to vape around children; it could give them the idea that vaping is cool or glamorous and most parents don’t want their kids getting the impression that using an addictive substance like nicotine is a good idea. Protect your own children and those of friends by keeping e-liquid cartridges and packaging where they can’t reach them.

So where can you vape? You may be allowed to vape in many restaurants; it’s up to the discretion of the owner. Of course, clouds of raspberry-scented water vapor floating around in the air could distract other diners from enjoying their meals, so many will say that while vaping in restaurants might be permissible, it isn’t polite. If you must vape at the table, it’s a good idea to ask your waiter about the restaurant’s policy on vaping.

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You may also be able to puff on your rechargeable e-cig at work; while some workplaces consider e-cig use to be the equivalent of tobacco smoking, others recognize that vaping isn’t the same and allow employees to vape in the office. Don’t just whip out the e-cig and start puffing away without first talking to your boss or HR department to make sure it’s okay, though. If you work in an open-plan office, your coworkers may object to being exposed to the vapor. If you’re told not to vape in the office, go outside.

Vaping is allowed in a wider range of places than smoking, but that doesn’t mean you can vape with abandon anywhere you go. Many locations frown on vaping, so make sure you get permission before vaping in a restaurant, at a bar, or at the office. When in doubt, take it out — not everyone wants to breathe your secondhand vapor, and a little consideration for others will do a lot to bolster the reputation of the vaping community.