Vaping may have become more popular in recent years, but that has also contributed to a rise in concern over its potential effects. This has led to increasing regulation to limit the places in which you can vape, so make sure you check the rules before you take out your electronic cigarette.
In this guide, we cover the rules concerning where you can and can’t vape in the UK. First though, let’s start by looking at the legislation.
Unlike laws concerning traditional cigarettes, there is no single piece of legislation governing the use of e-cigarettes in public. An attempt to ban vaping in some public places did not receive sufficient support from MPs to pass. This means that the matter of whether vaping is permitted or not in a particular location is dependent on the person or organisation who owns the land. There is, however, a ban on the purchasing of e-cigarettes by or for under-eighteens, and restrictions on the advertising of e-cigarettes.
Public Health England has issued advice for policymakers, stating that vaping e-cigarettes is considerably safer than smoking traditional cigarettes and that there is little evidence to support it being dangerous to the public. The degree to which this advice affects current and future legislation is, however, uncertain.
Organisations that have Banned Vaping
In 2013, Heathrow attracted attention after creating a dedicated vaping area in the airport’s Terminal 4. Stansted also allowed vaping indoors until 2014. These proved to be temporary endeavours, as e-cigarettes have since been banned in nearly every UK airport. There is no airport where e-cigarettes are explicitly allowed although some airports do not have an official vaping policy available on their websites.
Many of these airports do, however, offer smoking shelters outside of the terminal. These are places where you can vape e e-cigarettes just as you would traditional cigarettes. These include Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, both George Best Belfast City and Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Humberside, Liverpool John Lennon, Luton and Southampton.
When passing through security, e-cigarettes must be carried in hand luggage, not in checked baggage. Any e-liquid must be in a clear, 100 millilitres or less container, just as with any other liquid. Once you are past security, you will no longer be able to use your e-cigarettes.
As with airports, there is no universal set of laws on vaping whilst on a plane, but it is banned by the majority of airlines. Any e-cigarettes must stay in your hand luggage, although some airlines (such as British Airways) may offer to sell you e-cigarettes. Ryanair also offers its own smokeless cigarettes that you may be allowed to purchase and use on board. If your airline does not have an explicit policy on vaping, it’s best to refrain as almost all airlines have banned it on flights. Remember to also check the rules in your destination country, as some places may have banned e-cigarettes completely.
Vaping is currently banned on all UK train lines. It is also likely to be discouraged on any station platform. Transport for London also bans vaping on the London Underground.
Buses and coaches
Every bus and coach operator has a different policy on vaping. National Express explicitly prohibits it, with violators forced to leave the coach without a refund. Vaping is also currently banned on London buses by Transport for London.
Cruise ships and ferries
Many cruise ships and ferries impose similar restrictions on vaping as they do on smoking. This means sticking to designated smoking areas, and avoiding vaping inside your cabin or even on a cabin balcony.
Larger football clubs, such as Manchester United and Chelsea, have outright bans on vaping in their stadiums. Smaller clubs, however, see a lot more variety in these policies. As always, check before you visit, especially as policies can change frequently.
Similar rules apply in music stadia. Larger venues often have outright bans, smaller venues are more flexible. Birmingham’s NEC does not allow vaping for the majority of the year but does host the Vaper Expo UK twice annually, when this rule is, unsurprisingly, relaxed.
Scottish hospitals have not just banned vaping inside their buildings, but also whilst on hospital grounds. The one exception is the Lothian Trust. Many hospitals in England and Wales also ban vaping, despite the absence of a blanket ban in the UK. Again, check with the staff if you’re not sure.
Restaurants and Cafes
If you are in a bar, pub, cafe or restaurant then check with staff or the management before you start vaping. Local and independently owned businesses may have their own policies, but larger, national brands such as Starbucks and KFC have explicitly banned vaping in their establishments. Many pubs in the UK do allow vaping though, whilst others will allow it in designated outside smoking areas.
In 2012, the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found that around 700,000 people were using e-cigarettes regularly. In 2014, that figure rose to 2.1 million. Their 2017 survey showed numbers had risen further, to 2.7 million. The most recent data suggests there are now 3.2 million users of e-cigarettes in the UK. This shows that despite the increasing regulation, vaping continues to increase in popularity.
With Britain’s approaching exit from the European Union, the Government has committed to reviewing its current regulations around vaping and e-cigarettes, which could possibly lead to a relaxing of rules.
Overall, the current attitudes to vaping in the UK suggest that whilst it may be becoming harder to find places to vape, it is unlikely that there will be a full-scale public ban in the same way as there is for smoking. We champion this but would like to see the Government reverse some of the restrictive legislation around the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces and for businesses, councils and other organisations to follow suit.
The best thing for vapers to do is to check individual company policies before they take out an e-cigarette, as there is so much variation in regulation. Whilst some locations – particularly those that are crowded or enclosed – may have banned vaping, there are still plenty of places you can vape without restrictions.