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Manchester City Council bans e-cigarettes because of a "genuine health and safety question"

When compiling our report on the vaping policies of UK councils, one of the Freedom of Information (FoI) replies I received made me chuckle because it was so egregiously bad. I didn't include it in the main report, mainly because it was too long to put in the notes section, but I also wanted to separately highlight it. Manchester City Council, take a bow. 

“Firstly there's the genuine health and safety question. It's very likely that e-cigarettes are safer than real cigarettes, as they don't contain a lot of the nasties that are known to cause significant health damage. However the manufacturers' claims that they are completely safe are premature - we don't have the data to support this claim yet. Some recent work has found evidence that 5 minutes smoking on an e-cigarette increases airway constriction and inflammation in a similar way to smoking a real cigarette.

"The second issue is a social one. One of the major strategies in our work to reduce tobacco use is the "denormalisation" of smoking - getting to a place where it's just not seen as the normal everyday thing to do. There is a lot of evidence that this is an effective approach to encouraging people to quit as well as preventing people from starting in the first place. On these grounds we are opposed to allowing the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, as every time someone uses one it makes smoking more visible. Eliminating smoking from the workplace was a significant step forward in denormalising it and we would see permitting ecigarettes as a backward step in this approach.

"Of course, if employees are proposing to use e-cigarettes as a support to help them quit we would want to help them achieve this goal if possible; the current smoking policy gives people time off to attend stop smoking appointments, and the stop smoking service is able to provide nicotine replacement via patches rather than e-cigarettes." 

What genuine health and safety question? When I started reading the beginning of the first paragraph I thought the council was going to bleat on about "passive vaping". No. We know the Royal College of Physicians has stated that e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than smoking combustible tobacco, and even if they weren't, what you decide to put in your body is your business. If it doesn't cause appreciable harm, there isn't a health and safety question at all.

Then Manchester City Council talks about denormalising smoking and how allowing e-cigarettes in the workplace would make smoking more visible. Once again there is a failure to understand the difference between smoking and vaping, putting to one side that what adults to in their free time has nothing to do with their employer - as long as it is legal.

All the research shows that the vast majority of those who vape do so to either reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, or to quit completely. People I talk to seem to appreciate this. Why can't Manchester City Council? Rather than it being a step backwards, it is a hop, skip and a jump forwards. If your aim is to reduce the harm of smoking cigarettes, wouldn't you welcome something that is 95% safer? Not so Manchester City Council, and in all fairness to them, neither do the majority of councils across the UK. 

So there you have it, folks. The two main reasons Manchester City Council bans vaping on its grounds is for bogus health and safety reasons and the widely discredited reason that it would normalise smoking. There nothing like evidence based policy making, and this is nothing like evidence based policy making. 

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