Surrey’s Ban on E-Cigarettes in Public Places Raises Important Questions

To vape or not to vape?


(Scott McLelland)

If you ask someone whether they think e-cigarettes are safer than real cigarettes, you’ll most likely hear a strong opinion about it. However, if the person you ask lives in the City of Surrey, the answer you hear may not even matter.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with vaping, e-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that often look like a real cigarette. The device is filled with a liquid, usually made up of nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals. When it heats up, the liquid turns into a breathable vapour.

In December, the City of Surrey banned the smoking of e-cigarettes in the same areas that traditional smoking has been banned. The ban was in response to the numerous complaints that the city council had received regarding vaping in public places, as reported by CBC News. Vapers must now stay 7.5 metres away from bus stops and transit shelters when they light up. The city council also banned the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants, workplaces, and other public spaces earlier this year.

It seems clear that Surrey is treating e-cigarettes the same way as real cigarettes, despite the ongoing debate that they are not equal.

Personally, I can’t stand it when I’m next to someone and they blow their smoke near my face. I choose not to smoke, so it really angers me when I feel like I don’t have that freedom.

Others would argue, however, that second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes is not as dangerous as second-hand smoke from tobacco cigarettes, and the argument can be made that it shouldn’t be treated the same way.

E-cigarettes are fairly new on the market and have not been the subject of the same extensive research that regular tobacco cigarettes have. Much of the research conducted on e-cigarettes has reached conclusions varying between them being safe and unsafe. Therefore, it is hard to say if the effects of vaping can seriously damage a person’s health or the environment, either from first or second-hand smoke.

The City of Surrey has to be as safe as possible regarding e-cigarettes until more extensive research is conducted. It is the city counsel’s job to ensure the safety of everyone, and there is no way to say definitely that vaping isn’t dangerous.

Even though I do not vape, I understand that people who vape have the right to make that decision. However, it isn’t fair for someone who chooses not to vape to be forced to breathe it in. If a person is a guest in another person’s home, they likely wouldn’t start vaping without their host’s permission. How is this any different than being surrounded by strangers at a bus stop?

Not smoking or vaping in a public space should be a common courtesy. Everyone shares the same air, but not everyone can deal with breathing in secondhand smoke. How is a vaper going to know if the person standing next to them at the bus stop has severe asthma? There is no way of knowing for sure.

So walk the 7.5 metres away from the other people at that bus stop to vape. Don’t vape in your favourite local restaurant. You will not only be following the by-laws, you will be respecting the other people around you.


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