Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association

Tel : 01639 710 558

Email : support@ecita.org.uk

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An open letter to UK train operators

26, Nov, 2015

It is with considerable concern that we see an increasing number of train operators banning the use of electronic cigarettes both on trains and at stations, disadvantaging as many as 2.6 million of your customers who use vaping products.

In the context of the potential for massively reducing the number of deaths from smoking, discouraging the use of electronic cigarettes is bad policy.

We understand that many of the issues relating to the use of e-cigarettes in public places relate to courtesy, since there is near universal acknowledgement that the current evidence does not support a ban on the basis of harm to others. We believe that there are better ways of addressing the courtesy issue than a ban, however. We are not alone in this view, with Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of anti-smoking charity, Action on Smoking and Health, quoted as saying:

“There is no evidence that the vapour produced by electronic cigarettes is harmful in the same way as tobacco smoke. For that reason ASH does not support a blanket ban on the use of these devices in all enclosed public places. However, it’s up to individual organisations, including train operators, to choose whether or not to permit their use. We’d suggest that before doing so they think about the potential health benefits of these products which are mainly used by smokers trying to quit.”[i]

A good review of the available science on e-cigarettes can be found in a report from Public Health England, which also does not suggest that e-cigarettes should be banned in public spaces[ii].

It is one of the fundamental basics of courtesy to minimise the extent to which your actions impact others, and in the case of electronic cigarettes this can be easily achieved.  While most users of electronic cigarettes (vapers) find that the visible vapour on exhaling adds to the satisfaction of the product, it is not difficult to reduce this (and there are even liquids designed to minimise the visible vapour).

The argument that it is difficult to differentiate between the use of e-cigarettes and tobacco ones has little merit, as this table indicates:

A rather more nuanced policy could therefore be introduced. There is a need to balance the benefits to vaping customers and the wider public health benefits with the risk of users being discourteous to other travellers.

This could be simply described as a ‘discrete vaping only’ policy. This would avoid presenting e-cigarettes in the same light as smoking, and adding to the irrational fear some people have of the exhaled vapour, while still encouraging the use of harm reduction products. It would also have the benefit of aligning policy with what we expect is actual practise – since there is no legislated prohibition on vaping, many vapers will be continuing to vape, but surreptitiously. The people most likely to be deterred from vaping are, in fact, current smokers who might otherwise find the use of e-cigs appealing because they can be used in places where smoking is prohibited.

To draw an analogy: there are many passengers who would find it deeply offensive if one person began eating a particularly aromatic fish sandwich in a crowded train carriage. Most people who are au fait with notions of courtesy and respect would not engage in such behaviour, and it seems likely that passengers who found such an activity offensive and unpleasant would readily complain – either to the person directly, and/or to the train operator.

In order to ensure that customers are fully informed, we recommend the installation of signage, such as this:

so that those who wish to use electronic cigarettes are reminded to do so discreetly, and to treat their fellow passengers with courtesy and respect, while also informing those customers who do not wish to use such products that they can expect the products to be used in a minimally invasive or offensive way – and can report any misbehaviour in this regard. We believe that this is the appropriate balance to strike for this type of public environment. If such a policy were adopted by UK train operators, then they could be – at least in some small way – contributing to improvements in UK public health, rather than risking being a potential cause of harm.

We would welcome any feedback, and are more than happy to respond to any questions you may have.

Tom Pruen

Chief Scientific Officer

The Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, ECITA (EU) Ltd.

tom.pruen [at] ecita.org.uk

This letter is also available as a PDF file.


As much as I support this initiative by ECITA, as a seasoned Vaper and someone who works for one of the UK TOCs, I can tell you now this message will fall on deaf ears.

The core of the anti-vaping fervour primarily comes from the small number of bus operators who own the majority of the passenger rail operators alongside the publicly owned Network Rail.

In my own experience, all have shown deliberate intransigence with regards to vaping by both the travelling public and their staff. I've found them to be nothing short of a 'brick wall' who refuse to discuss the matter in any way outside of justifying their ignorant stance. And the three main railway Trade Unions have no real interest in the subject, either locally or nationally.

I wish ECITA well with the initiative, but realistically, they're p*ssing in the wind on this one I'm afraid.

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