Haze Of Confusion Over E-Cigarettes In Australia

Normally, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. For the hospitality industry, however, the smouldering issue of electronic cigarettes has people scratching their heads.

Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty

These battery-powered, smoke-free, electronic tubes allow users to inhale vaporised nicotine — or a nicotine-free solution — and mimic the action of smoking, without burning tobacco to the annoyance of those around you.

Instead, they emit a vapour and to mimic real cigarettes, some even have a red light on the tip. That’s a slap in the face to Australian pubs and clubs, which haven’t been allowed cigarettes through the doors for years.

The sight of someone appearing to “light up” in a confined space could inevitably shock others nearby — something acknowledged by Qantas’ ban on e-cigs.

Qantas says the ban stems from not only issues with dangerous goods restrictions, but also due to social consideration.

“It’s about social consideration,” a Qantas spokesman told Business Insider.

“Customers may carry electronic cigarettes on Qantas flights so long as they comply with our dangerous goods policy, but we believe it would be disruptive to other passengers if we allowed them to be smoked on board,” he added.

He said the policy on so-called e-cigarettes established around 18 months ago for all Qantas and Jetstar flights, is consistent with international regulators and industry bodies such as IATA.

However, there is no ban on e-cigarette use currently being enforced by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which instead leaves it up to the airline.

Meanwhile the managers of hotels, bars, and restaurants lack clearly enforceable guidelines on how to respond to the use of e-cigarettes in their establishments.

Manager of The Apartment Lounge Bar in Melbourne, Hannah Fontozzi, said she had seen people using them in the designated smoking areas and has allowed it as e-cigarettes had not been a source of conflict. Yet.

“We don’t really have anyone using them inside, but there’s no reason for them not to,” she said.

“If it were an issue we would have asked someone to take it outside, but we have not had to do that.”

Those who have tried using e-cigarettes in public places have reported a mixed response from bars and restaurants on the online forum AussieVapers.com.

Some say they have no trouble “vapeing” openly, others say they have been asked to switch off their e-cigarettes or leave.

Gold Coast e-cigarette supplier Lee O’hara of Social-Lites, said most bar and restaurant managers seem unsure of how to respond.

“In Australia at the moment most people are uneducated about them,” he told Business Insider.

“Managers are afraid they will get into a confrontation with people thinking it is a cigarette. But there’s no smoke, it’s just a vapour, so they don’t have that lingering smoke or lingering smell.”

A spokesman for the Australian Hotels Association said the state and territory government regulators responsible for setting and enforcing smoking restrictions would be responsible for issuing guidelines in this area, however the matter appears be rather complex.

E-cigarettes containing nicotine currently cannot be sold in Australia as they have not been approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, although those containing non-nicotine solution are legal.

However this could change following the first clinical trials of electronic cigarettes, set to start this year.

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