We are a non-smoking restaurant (in fact a non-smoking town) but one of my guests came in with an e-cigarette (unlit) and asked if it would be OK to smoke it in the bar. I told him no, that e-cigarettes are included in our smoking ban, but actually I’m not sure.
– General Manager, Fine Dining Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA
E-cigarettes (technically personal vaporizers) are a classic case of the law not keeping pace with technology. I think your answer was a smart one—smoking, broadly interpreted, can include vaporizing, and if you feel that other guests or employees would be disturbed by the e-smoking, you would also be honoring the spirit of the law. Some municipalities, most recently Chicago, have gone so far as to explicitly state that e-cigarettes are included in the ban where smoking is prohibited.
A study by the New York City Hospitality Alliance, in anticipation of a likely ban on e-cigarettes in New York City, actually found some proposed benefits to e-cigarette smoking, especially in bars:
- E-cigarettes can reduce the number of people who smoke outside of their establishments which can create noise and litter complaints from neighbors and community boards. Fewer smokers outside allows them to more effectively manage crowding on sidewalks.
- E-cigarettes can reduce the frequency of guests who attempt to unlawfully light up tobacco inside or under outdoor awnings and other prohibited areas.
- some businesses already do or may consider selling e-cigarettes at their bars and in restrooms.
- Guests may spend more money when they can use e-cigarettes inside and not have to go outside to smoke.”
In all, however, I would assume that the trajectory for a non-smoking municipality would be to regulate e-cigarettes as well. My advice would be that unless your restaurant is primarily a bar or club, you formalize a no e-smoking policy just to stay on top of things and avoid confusion in the future.
More on the e-cigarette debate here.