Dear person smoking their e-cig next to me in this coffee shop,
I really hate your e-cigarette.
I’m proud of you for taking steps to quit smoking and, yes, I would much rather you vape than smoke. Smoking is terrible, and I’m not calling for a sweeping ban of e-cigs.
But please, I am imploring you, stop vaping indoors. I know it’s “just water vapor,” but it is water vapor that smells terrible. The vapor that is wafting over from your table to mine does not smell like pancakes; it smells like a synthetic blend of sugar-free butterscotch candies and diacetyl. Sure, this is “better” than cigarette smoke, but stepping in cat poop is better than stepping in dog poop, and both are still terrible options.
I realize that you are breaking no laws. You are technically allowed to "vape" indoors. In large indoor spaces, your habit is not such a big deal. I can walk away from you or you will eventually walk away from me. I may be temporarily annoyed, but this too shall pass.
But just because you are "technically allowed" to do something, that doesn't mean you should do it. In smaller spaces — spaces from which I cannot escape — in planes, cafes, and restaurants, you need to put that thing away. You are being rude. Like eating a large amount of garlic before boarding a 10-hour flight or wearing strong perfume to an expensive restaurant.
I'm sure you are experiencing a sense of freedom the likes of which you've never felt. You no longer have to brave the elements to get your nicotine fix. This must be especially nice if you live in an area with extreme weather. This freedom may let you live out smoking fantasies you never thought possible. I get it; the no smoking signs in airplane bathrooms are so admonishing, even I have been tempted to dismantle those smug little smoke detectors. After enduring all of the restrictions imposed on smokers, I can see how it could be easy to now view the world as your own personal "vaping lounge," but I really wish that you wouldn't.
In the case of restaurants and cafes, you are interfering with the food. Flavor is a combination of taste and smell, and with the smell of pina colada air freshener floating under my nose, I am having a hard time enjoying my coffee. Your bubble gum vapor is not welcome when I'm eating a grilled cheese. And — I may be overstepping my bounds here — but I really wish you wouldn't exhale bacon flavored vapor around my beer. We've already established that bacon-flavored beer is pretty terrible. I know you can still smoke in a lot of bars, but I don't go to those bars. Besides, that’s what the patio is for.
I don’t think I'm being completely unreasonable. Even e-cig companies seem to agree with me:
Even if you are at an establishment that allows vaping and someone sitting next to you seems uncomfortable or requests you to stop vaping, the best thing to do would be to respect their request. At work, it is a good idea to inform your colleagues about what you are doing. Smokers have been notorious because of a few rude ones who blow their tobacco smoke right into people’s faces. But since vaping is so new, the opportunity still exists for the community to create a positive view of this culture.
Currently, you are not creating a positive view of this culture.
Between vaping liquid being called things likes “lizard juice” and those ridiculous holsters, you need all the goodwill you can generate. Subjecting people to cloying, food-esque scents is not the way to go about it. Besides being annoying, you may be giving people headaches or allergic reactions.
I am glad you quit smoking. If the e-cigarette helps someone achieve that goal, I support their decision to purchase and use one. But please be mindful of those around you. Because while vaping is considerably safer than traditional cigarettes, it just doesn't smell that great.
Claire Lower is a freelance writer living in Florida.