E-cigarettes look deceptively similar to tobacco cigarettes but at the same time the differences are great. An e-cigarette is a battery powered device which converts a nicotine containing liquid into a vapour. A user inhales the vapour and exhales it as white clouds just like the smoke from tobacco cigarettes, except that it is a vapour and does not smell the same. Smoking on the Metro System in Washington is banned but the situation is still fluid as far as e-cigarettes are concerned.
To people habituated to enjoying a metro ride devoid of smokers, seeing a commuter ‘vaping’ (akin to ‘smoking’ in the case of tobacco cigarettes) can be quite disturbing.
Authorities are still divided as far as the regulation of e-cigarettes is concerned. While the Department of Transportation initially sought to prohibit their use in all flights, they ultimately left the decision to the individual airlines. A ban has been enforced on all buses plied by the Oahu Transit Services in Hawaii, effective from May 1.
Dan Stessel states that it is the local laws that dictate what is prohibited on the Metro.
General Ken Cuccinelli II, Attorney General of Virginia had ruled in 2010 that the ban on smoking excludes e-cigarettes. However, the D.C. Council is planning on bringing e-cigarettes under the same laws as are applicable to tobacco cigarettes by introducing the Electronic Cigarette Parity Amendment Act.
All this confusion may lead to an absurd situation where a commuter is legally allowed to vape in the Metro while in one state and may be committing an offence the minute the train crosses the border into another state.
Dan feels that it is still unclear whether using an e-cigarette on the Metro is a punishable offence and expects matters to become clearer with the passage of time.
Opinion is divided even among the users of e-cigarettes. While some complain about being pulled up for vaping in the Metro, others feel that users of e-cigarettes should not be vaping where smoking is banned as this will only portray both, the product and the users, in bad light.