A Guide to E-Cigarette Etiquette (Or, How to Vape in Public Without Being a Jerk)

By Lindsay Fox Posted April 23, 2014

The issue of e-cigarette use in public places is a hot-button on both a political and a social level. While states mull indoor usage bans and incorporate e-cigs into existing smoke-free laws, vapers are left in a strange limbo when it comes to e-cigarette etiquette. Vaping doesn’t release the vast majority of harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, but to people who learn about e-cigarettes from scare-stories in the news, we can look like noxious, fog-breathing polluters. So what do we do? Should we vape freely when permitted by law and politely inform anybody who thinks it’s dangerous that they’re clearly hysterical, or skulk off into the smoking areas under the weight of unspoken social pressure? How do you vape in public without making e-cig users look like inconsiderate jerks?


Public vaping etiquette


You Can’t Vape Anywhere


One of the most commonly-cited benefits of switching to e-cigarettes (particularly among sellers of beginner-friendly models) is that you can vape anywhere, or if they’re being reasonable, almost anywhere. Well, you definitively can’t vape anywhere – businesses can choose what is allowed on their premises – and frankly, even the “almost anywhere” claim is growing increasingly tenuous, with local transport authorities, planes and some local governments enacting bans on e-cig usage. In fact, the situation appears to be moving more towards smoking-like treatment rather than the “vape anywhere” approach.


places where vaping is banned in public


Even outside of official bans, there are many situations – elevators, for example – where vaping freely would make you seem like a bit of a jerk. In a restaurant, while opinions may differ on this, it’s obviously a little rude because people are eating there. You’re chocolate and peanut butter e-liquid probably smells delicious, but would you want to get a whiff of that when you were trying to enjoy a steak or some lasagna? No, because you want to taste and smell your food!


Be Armed With Information


However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that vaping in public isn’t going to put anyone at risk, or at least not at any significant or even quantifiable level of risk. Igor Burstyn’s review of chemical analyses of e-cig vapor bears this conclusion, the second-hand levels of contaminants in e-cig vapor can be legitimately compared to human breath or ordinary outdoor air, and several other studies have found little to no risk from e-cig vapor. To explain it in the simplest way possible, the levels of contaminants are comparable to those found in things like gums and patches, and it’s therefore unlikely that they’ll pose any serious risks to first-hand users. With no credible evidence of first-hand risk, when the vapor is diluted by the air from the room you’re in, the risk is obviously going to be even smaller. It’s good to know this stuff, though, because if you encounter any genuine concern from people, you will be able to explain that it really isn’t anything to be concerned about.


The Importance of Asking


You can be fairly certain that you aren’t going to harm anyone, but you might make them uncomfortable or otherwise upset. Additionally, it’s hard to know whether many establishments are OK with vaping, because most don’t have specific signs addressing e-cig use. The solution is to simply ask. At the bar, ask the barman if you’re allowed to vape, and if he or he says no, then head outside with the smokers. We don’t want to, but it’s better to endure a bit of cold than to flout an establishment’s rules and give people the impression that vapers are disrespectful or are just looking for a way to exploit “loopholes” in smoke-free laws. Similarly, if you’re in close proximity to somebody when you’re vaping, it can’t hurt to ask if they’re OK with it. According to a recent survey, two thirds of Americans don’t really mind people vaping near them, but asking permission is still the most polite way to go.


Public Cloud-Chasing is a No-No


Public cloud chasing and vaping


Vapers love clouds. Our exhaled cumulus clumps of white vapor bring us pleasure, but the bigger your clouds get the more obnoxious it is to blow them in public (and particularly in enclosed) spaces. A thin veil of vapor is definitely different to a dense fog of nicotine-laced PG and VG, and even though more vapor obviously means greater quantities of chemicals, the main concern is with appearance. The real thing that makes public vaping an issue is its aesthetic similarity to public smoking. Looking from an outsider’s perspective, even if it was pure water vapor we were exhaling, a dense cloud of it would still make people feel less comfortable than a subtle stream of it. The bigger your clouds, the more you seem like an unwanted fog machine. If you’re in a public place where people are cool with vaping, you can still be discreet by blowing your vapor downwards and holding it in for a little longer before exhaling. Enjoy huge plumes of vapor, by all means, but do it in the comfort of your own home or possibly in an especially vape-friendly environment like a brick-and-mortar vape store.


Respect Other People’s Wishes (Even if They’re Stupid)


This really all comes down to having respect for other people. As RiP Trippers argues, it’s just not nice to impose your hobby on somebody else, especially if it makes them feel uncomfortable. They haven’t consented to be exposed to your vapor, so you shouldn’t force it upon them, especially since they will inhale small amounts of nicotine in the process. Their concerns may be (in fact: are) unfounded, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored, especially if you’re concerned about how vapers look on the whole.


Conclusion: Don’t be a Jerk


In a nutshell, you should heed the following advice when vaping in public: don’t be a jerk. If you’re outside, the only thing you need to do is not blow vapor directly towards somebody’s face, but if you’re inside it’s important to ask permission, and if it’s granted, don’t abuse the privilege by completely fogging out the room. Making some extra effort to respect non-vapers and non-smokers isn’t just being polite, it’s also showing that vapers on the whole are considerate people, and hopefully changing some minds on the indoor usage issue in the process.

  • Erorbt

    In my case if I see someone sitting next to me is vaping I just move away. I think in such situations what is more important is respect for the other individual than the rights. Such etiquette as to take it outside or to ask for permission in places where it is permitted to vape will go a long way. I know many people who thought they will never quit smoking but ecigs helped them to come out of that addiction. These are the people who are trying to release themselves from addiction. Setting up ‘vaping area’ could be a possible solution.

    • tinalovesnick

      I would love to have a designated vaping section, away from the smokers. I gave up smoking and can no longer handle the smell or the burning feeling of the smoke in my eyes.

      • J Phillips

        especially foul are the ashtray stanchion thingies for butts; you can smell em from like 50ft away. Whenever I catch a whiff of that, I want to apologize to everyone, ever for all the years I smoked. Yuck.

    • MaslowK

      I just recently went back to school and I’m noticing that vaping is really catching on among young people. Most of the time they (and myself) are courteous about their vaping, and then there’s this asshole that sits across from me in my english class. I’ve seen him get chewed out for doing shit like blowing huge clouds in hallways, and while it got less frequent eventually, the kid still does does it on occasion. Unfortunately, it only takes one douchebag to ruin it for the rest of us ;/

  • MacHelen

    It is true that not many laws restrict vape usage but we should still follow vape etiquette. For me it depends on the setting on which I am in. I normally take it outside specially if there are children and elders around.

    Vaping is a growing community but people should not take it overboard so that it does not attract any massive regulation.

  • Kat

    I rarely vape in public and never when people are nearby (unless outside). It is just a courtesy. One time, at a theme park, I was vaping (there was no patrons around, only 2 attendants who were about 15 yards away from me) and one of them said I had to go to a smoking area. I was a little taken aback. I starting vaping to quit smoking (cigarette free since 12/10/14 and nic free since Jan) and I can not stand the smell of cigarette smoke now. And I told the lady that I respected her feelings, but what I was doing is about as harmful as boiling water and that I’d quit smoking and had no desire to go sit with them. She spoke with her sup and just asked that I do it in areas where people wouldn’t be prone to be or be very long. Which I was fine with. I would have stopped if patrons had come to the area I was in. Loved the article.

    • Sheryl Zerbe Manrodt

      This is pretty much how I vape in public. I quit cigarettes by vaping 3 years ago and have been nic free for 2 years. At this point, I vape mostly in the car and parties/family gatherings. There are days that go by, sometimes, that I don’t vape at all. But don’t let that deter me from being a strong vaping supporter!

  • Just a Vaper

    Great article! We need more of these as a reminder to not be “vapeholes”, if it’s unintentional. I was with a group of people who vape (and are usually very courteous) at a meet-and-great at our state Capitol. One of our group, seeing all of the other vapors vaping, chuffed a huge cloud that drifted towards two people that are not vapers and they waved at the vapor and moved away. I first asked the group if we could move away from others to prevent this from happening any more (being a vaping advocacy group, they complied immediately), then I went to the couple and apologized. The couple said it was ok, they know it’s not dangerous to them, but I told them I am still apologizing because it was still rude of us. Funny thing is, this gave me an opening, an introduction to them. Turns out, one of them is a state house representative and, because of my contrite attitude, he asked me why I was at the Capitol that day. I told him about a proposed bill that would tax vaping and classify it as a tobacco product. Long story short, he went on to tell other reps about the bill and they have stalled it in committee, preventing it’s passage (for now). I guess my point is, if you find your vapor has offended someone, apologize and use it as an opportunity to show the majority of people (who are non-vapers) that we are not rude jerks, we are just people like them and we don’t want to force our habits on them.

  • Name2

    I have read two of your stories now and both make a recommendation to hold vape in to ‘decrease’ what you exhale. I must say that I have an issue with your recommendation.
    When you are holding in your vape you are allowing it to condensate within your lungs.
    You know that little bit of fluid that will gather within your drip tip well…yeah that in your lungs but in a greater quantity.

    I also found it rather funny to find a story on stealth vaping attached to one on vaping etiquette containing the advisement to not vape indoors unless it acceptable to the establishment.

    I know I have already made this comment but I am making it again.

    • MaslowK

      Water soluble compounds won’t collect in your lungs, they’ll be absorbed. Situations that cause your lungs to fill with fluid are filling them faster than your lungs can absorb it.

  • Craig Ripley

    I vape where and when the Fuck i want to vape . i dont give a rats ass . . i m not going to give up my freedom of living my life .

    • Kevin

      and that would be why it’s inevitably going to be banned everywhere not just in places where common sense and common courtesy come into play. Thanks!…

    • Mal

      You must be a special kind of stupid..

    • Kingsley Baconhausen

      Such a badass. He’s obviously a Cobra Kai.

    • MaslowK

      Are you familiar with the phrase “your rights end where mine begin”? That applies here.

    • Daniel Mourer

      And it’s people like you that give the rest of us vapers a bad name.

      • Nathan LaLone

        Amen dano!

    • Josh c

      It’s people like u that rules get put in place jackass

    • J Phillips


  • Ronald Touchet

    I’ve written a very similar article back in the day. Not enough people understand that even if it’s not smoking it can still be rude and bothersome to others. Yes if the owner of an says it’s okay then vape there, but ask first, vape appropriate to your local (don’t cloud chase if your at an art gallery or store) and understand even if others support you the smells and sight can still bother them.

    One big fear factor that the media and other government tools are using is the idea that evey place people go will be filled with clouds. Let’s not help them spread that idea.

  • joe

    I have brought the same discussion up on forums . Now it so wrecked for the rest of us . Even the entertainment places . that are pumping vapor into the air . Are making rules that we can’t use our vapor

  • Josh

    I really found this article helpful especially in practicing the right etiquette of vaping in public. I hope more vapers and also non-vapers will get to read this so that they will be guided how to rightfully behave while using vape electronic cigarettes in various places that are not vape-friendly. Also this would help lessen arising issues and threats about ecigs.

  • Susan Stoutenburg Boriths

    Finally a good informative article on vaping. I have stopped smoking for 2 years now and I couldn’t be happier :)

  • Kevin Johnson

    Thank you for writing this. I find most people don’t understand vaping etiquette. Even when you are in a place where vaping is accepted, blowing vapor in someone’s face is never appreciated! Blow your vapor AWAY from people! Some may have PG allergies, and some may be newbies that don’t understand the obsession with volume vaping (something that puzzles me as a year-long vaper). I was with someone who has never smoked in her life, and a guy basically blew his vape about a mm from her left ear, and it ended up as a cloud hovering around her. As the article says, don’t impose your behavior’s consequences on anyone else. That’s the ONE rule.

  • Craig Ripley


    • Seth Tecson

      k, we get it. u like to be ignorant. bye lol

      • Smokinsteve

        How is he being “ignorant”?

    • Kingsley Baconhausen

      Whats wrong with you? You made a fool out of yourself 6 months ago, but thought you come back for more by saying the exact same thing?

      You’re a selfish moron. Plain and simple.

    • jwalk

      Hi Craig, while I completely understand where you are coming from, I just wanted to point out, from one vaper to another, that we are fighting a very long and hard battle with all the uneducated people and lobbyists trying to ban e cigs. I personally vape anywhere I please as well, BUT, when I am in public, I “stealth vape” so as not to bring any more negativity to my lifestyle than there already is 😉 I hope you don’t take offense to this, just a friendly line to try to help, not hurt, the vaping community Happy Vaping 😉

    • Michael J Carter

      And this douche bag attitude is what gives vapors a bad name. I’m kinda wishing they class it as same as cigerates in public cause guys like you that vap in none smoking areas.

  • Michael J Carter

    I travel a lot for work and I seen many other countries have band e-cigs any place you can not smoke in. As a smoker and vapor I do agree with them. There are just to many douche bags that don’t understand that in public it’s just rude to blow your cloud all over the place. I had a guy cloud at the bar and pretty much got sick cause of what flavor he had turned my stomach. There is very few things I can’t stand the smell of it and it was that one fruit I hate. To me if I can smell the flavor of some one else vap from across the room there is an issue.

  • aguywhovapes

    For my part, literally the only time I vape indoors is at home or in my local vape shop. Otherwise I always take it outside. I always blow my vapour upwards, towards the sky, when others are around. I still get the occasional disapproving glare, so it’s worth remembering that some idiots will always find a reason to bitch.