The ban on smoking in public places has been in place since 2007 and has been widely blamed for since contributing to the closure of many pubs.  An estimated 2.9m people in the UK are now ‘vaping’, with 1.5m of them being former smokers.  Vapes are not thought to be harmful to those around and health experts believe that they may be a useful tool in helping smokers to give up cigarettes.  So can you allow vaping in your pub to boost trade or not?

Is it legal to vape in public places?

E-Cigarettes are not covered by the smoking ban as smoking is defined as “tobacco and other substances in a lit form which are capable of being smoked”.  E-Cigarettes are not lit.  It is therefore legal to use an E-cigarette in a public place including a pub, cafe, restaurant or hotel.  However, it is open to you as the operator to create your own policy on vaping on your premises and you are strongly encouraged to do this.

What are the issues?

Some operators have banned vaping inside their pubs and restaurants believing that it is unsettling for other customers and it is too difficult and time consuming for staff to differentiate between smokers and vapers.  Vapes can smell strong and unpleasant, often giving out plumes of vapour.

On the other hand allowing vaping inside may boost trade as customers who wish to vape stay at the bar drinking rather than spending periods of time outside.

What are your options?

You need to weigh up the pros and cons for your business of allowing vaping inside.  You could:

  • Ban E-cigarettes indoors and permit customers to vape in your outdoor smoking area only.  This risks putting those who are trying to give up smoking outside with the very product they are trying to give up.
  • Allow vaping inside hoping to boost trade.
  • Ban E-cigarettes, in line with cigarettes, and set up a separate indoor or outdoor area for vaping.

Written policy and signage

Whatever you decide is right for your business you should have a written policy and make sure that all staff are aware of it.  Publicise your policy to customers in order that difficult incidents can be avoided.  It is also important to keep the policy under review, listen to customer comments and to be aware of how other operators are dealing with the vaping issue.  You should put up appropriate signage so that customers are clear about what is permitted on your premises.

Can staff use E-cigarettes?

You should also consider whether you will allow staff to vape during working hours.  This is akin to the use of mobile phones and smoking breaks at work.  Most employers will limit these to the extent that they interfere with an employee’s ability to perform his job.  It would not be appropriate to require staff to vape in your smoking area as this would expose non-smoking staff to the risks from smoke that the Smoking Act was introduced to prevent.  Again, your policy on vaping by staff should be considered and clearly set out in writing so that staff understand that a breach of the policy may result in disciplinary action.