Thursday 1 November 2018 5:45 pm

Vaping and e-cigs are safer than smoking cigarettes, so let your colleagues puff away at their desk

I smoke. Very happily. Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. As far as I’m concerned, tobacco is one of the true age-verified joys of life. I love the taste of the leaf, the sensation of the nicotine, and the other physical and psychological effects.

I have also worked on marketing campaigns for two of the world’s biggest tobacco manufacturers, and have no ethical issue whatsoever with this.

I have been part of communicating the joy of tobacco to age-verified audiences who know the risks, as well as the financial cost, and who choose to smoke anyway.

And let’s be clear, smokers do know the risks. The clue is on the packaging: it can kill you. Those who part with their hard-earned cash to enjoy their tobacco do so with the full knowledge that they are risking a diverse range of medical consequences and conditions. This is their legal adult choice.

That having been said, I do respect the introduction of designated smoking areas, as well as the banning of cigarettes from pubs and other social environments.

Similarly, I never smoke around non-smokers, or advocate the marketing of tobacco products in any way that contravenes either the letter or spirit of the law.

Vaping is something completely different. These products are non-combustible. The nicotine delivery is either via a liquid (e-cigarettes that produce vapour, not smoke) or via heated tobacco that does not burn and therefore significantly reduces the release of harmful chemicals.

This isn’t smoking, in the same way that a battery engine is not an internal combustion engine.

Vape products can help those who wish to stop smoking “combustibles” – with all of their associated flame-released chemicals.

They can also be enjoyed, on their own terms, for the vapour sensation, the tobacco (or other) taste, and the effects of the nicotine.

Why on earth would anyone want to stand in the way of these products? If someone wants to switch from smoking to vaping for health reasons, we should all be supporting them. If they want to enjoy tobacco-vapour, we should allow them.

I’ve searched extensively online before writing this article. All the evidence that I have found suggests that there may be some marginally harmful toxins within vape products that can impact the user.

There could, therefore, be a reason to legislate these products to a greater extent in the future, subject to further research.

However, I am yet to find any credible research that gives evidence that second-hand vapour is harmful. In fact, the most credible studies I’ve come across seem to strongly indicate that the risks of passive vaping are non-existent.

I accept that what I’ve just written will be extremely unpopular – especially because of the behaviour of the tobacco manufacturers towards the end of the last century.

But have a search for yourself (making sure to review properly credible papers). The position of the NHS is that “smoking e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, doesn’t produce tobacco smoke, so the risks of passive smoking with conventional cigarettes don’t apply to e-cigs”.

So, is it okay to vape in the office? Yes. It’s a means of giving up harmful combustible cigarettes, and a more sensible way to enjoy nicotine without impacting others. It isn’t the same as smoking, and the same rules should not apply.

As a chief executive, I let my staff vape in the office. Similarly, I let them move desks away from a neighbour who vapes if they wish to.

Perhaps just a little common sense can prevail on this one, instead of an overreaction? Here’s hoping.