Estonia sees spate of people vaping in forbidden public spaces

An individual 'vaping' (photo is illustrative).
An individual 'vaping' (photo is illustrative). Source: EBU/ERR

The Ministry of Social Affairs sees clearer prohibition signs on 'vaping' in public spaces as a solution to the misconception that the activity is less harmful than tobacco smoking, and of the issue of passive smoking for those unwillingly engulfed in wreaths of vapor when, for instance, waiting for a bus or train.

e-cigarette smoking, or vaping, has been prohibited in places where smoking regular cigarettes are not allowed since 2018. However, e-cigarette users often ignore this regulation.

Anneli Sammel, head of alcohol and tobacco at the Health Development Institute (TAI), says this is most likely due to a lack of awareness of the law, and of seeing vaping as a different, less noxious activity than tobacco smoking.

Sammel said: "e-cigarettes tend not to have an unpleasant odor, and do not disturb people as much as regular cigarettes."

However, the harmful effects of vaping can still be noticed by a non-smoker or passer-by, who then has to inhale the vapers emissions whether they like it or not.

"The toxic substances that a person [vaping] inhales in aerosol form do not remain in their body, but they also exhale them. This has the same effect on the bystander as the person who is vaping themselves."

Another factor may be a perception that being seen vaping somehow renders the practitioner "cool."

One local resident told ERR that she regularly has had to inhale e-cigarette vapors when getting on and off public transport, for instance, and has even noticed a rise in incidents.

"When I got off the tram at the Mere puiestee tram stop, I think about two people in front of me were vaping at the same time. It's a very narrow platform, there's a real bottleneck, and I just felt like I was constantly being assaulted by these clouds of vapor."

The Ministry of Social Affairs prepared a package of proposals for the government last year, which focused on awareness campaigns about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes,

However, this was not approved by the government at the time.

At the same time, according to Aive Telling, director of the department dealing with chemical safety and environmental health at the ministry came up with a proposal for labels that would explicitly prohibit smoking e-cigarettes, which is under current consideration.

Anneli Sammel at the TAI said that e-cigarettes should not be used in front of minors. "Just because it doesn't smell bad or doesn't taste bad, that doesn't mean it's safe," she noted.

Passive vaping can also affect mental health as well as physical health, she added, even for passive vapers.

Ultimately, a member of the public in a public space is well within their rights to ask a vaper to step further away from them if the emissions are disturbing them.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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