Should Restaurants Ban E-Cigarettes?

You'd eat a burger sitting next to her.
You'd eat a burger sitting next to her.

There's a crackdown on e-cigarettes in the works. While the health risks of pulling on a battery-powered nicotine stick are still unknown, policy makers are moving to regulate them. The U.S Department of Transportation has already grounded e-cigarettes on airplanes and Amtrak won't let them on trains, either.

E-cigarettes were first introduced as a tool to help traditional smokers quit, but many just became electronic smokers. And now that now children are picking up e-cigarettes with more frequency, officials are taking a closer look at what was once considered harmless. New Yorkers, having endured more bans and attempted bans than anyone should have to endure, are using a recent passenger train e-cigarette ban to fuel the question: Should e-cigarettes be banned in restaurants?

According to a survey on CNN's Etocracy, almost 60 percent of readers are fine with e-cigarettes at the table, but some area restaurant professionals disagree. Businessweek called several restaurateurs and chefs to ask about e-cigarette policies and heard everything from "I'm happy to have them" to "we do not allow them indoors or outdoors." None of the chefs seem enamored with them, though, calling them tacky and weird.

Posing the same question to Dallas restaurants yielded similar inconsistencies. "We don't allow it," said a hostess at Stephan Pyles, before adding, "This is a five star restaurant." A hostess at Abacus, on the other hand, said there is no policy and that she'd seen them used in the dining room.

E-cigs had only been spotted twice at the bar at Al Biernat, not once in the dining room at Bijoux and "only a couple times" at Oak. With respect to fine dining in Dallas, there seems to be few hardened rules simply because diners haven't been trying to "light up" while they dine.

Still, e-cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon, and "vape shops" are popping up with increased frequency. Twice as many school kids smoked e-cigarettes last year as they did the year before, according to the CDC, and eventually those kids are going to end up in a dining room with you.

Most of the chefs and restaurant employees seemed permissive of the habit as long as long as it wasn't a distraction or an inconvenience to the other guests. But with e-cigarette use climbing, the potential for distraction is more likely. What if a restaurant was half-filled with nicotine users, puffing apricot-flavored vapor clouds while they ate? Would it be a distraction then?

We may find out soon.

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