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E-smoking in restaurants: do we need a ban?

Posted at 3:15 pm, October 29, 2013 in Food & Drink
© Ed Marshall

Why would you ban e-smoking in restaurants?

Ask Wandsworth’s Chez Bruce, Soho’s Bocca di Lupo and the Salt Yard restaurant chain, who huffed and puffed about indoor e-smokers last week. ‘It’s off-putting if someone puffs away next to you,’ said Simon Mullins, co-founder of the Salt Yard group. ‘It’s giving an e-middle finger to other diners,’ added Bocca di Lupo’s co-owner Jacob Kenedy.

Wow. What makes e-fags the social evil du jour?

We’re not sure. The battery-operated devices contain liquid nicotine, but not tobacco. It emits an odourless vapour, so there’s no fuggy air, stinky breath – or cancer (for you or anyone else). Oh, and they’re not included in the 2007 smoking ban.

They sound pretty harmless.

Most medical experts believe they are not a risk. ‘There is no justification to ask people to smoke outside on health grounds,’ says Professor Peter Hajek, director of Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. ‘It would be like complaining that the person next to you was drinking coffee – even coffee has more odour than e-cigarettes.’

So why are our restaurateurs so ignited?

According to Salt Yard: ‘It’s an aesthetic oddity.’

May as well ban people in socks and sandals, no?

‘They just don’t compare!’ said Mullins. ‘But I would never ask an e-smoker to go outside unless another diner complained.’

Will this put a damper on public e-smoking?

Unlikely. An anonymous London-based Russian oil magnate has just spent £550,000 on a diamond encrusted version for his girlfriend. Restaurant Momo is opening an e-shisha bar in November. Welcome to the Big E-Smoke! Rebecca Taylor

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