Friday, April 4, 2014

“Vaping” Afloat

Cruise lines and their passengers are accustomed to controversy. Among some of the most heated topics of conversation in regard to cruise travel is the preference of some for “traditional” dining seatings versus the open seating or “anytime” dining option that appeals to many others. However, that topic pales by comparison to the one that rages between smokers and non-smokers.

In a nod to a cleaner, safer, and healthier atmosphere on board, most cruise lines have severely curtailed smoking on their vessels. Ships have caught up to the rest of the hospitality industry and the smoking lamp has gone out in all restaurants and showrooms at sea, as well as many of their bars and lounges. Nearly all accommodations and most private balconies are also smoke-free zones. While casinos are one of the last bastions of smokers, some have a “smoke-free” night to clear the air or restrict smoking to certain areas. We detail those policies in “Smoke on the Water.”

While cigarette smokers find it’s more difficult to locate a place to light up during a cruise, a new wrinkle has been added—“electronic cigarettes” that are now in wide use by smokers who don’t want to offend others or who are trying to cut back on or quit smoking traditional tobacco filled cigarettes. If you aren’t familiar with them, electronic cigarettes—also known as a personal vaporizer, an e-cig, or e-cigarette—are battery powered devices that heat a liquid containing various strengths of nicotine to produce vapor. The vapor is inhaled by the user and acts as a nicotine delivery system. E-cig enthusiasts enjoy the act of “smoking” without the smoke, ash, combustion, or odor of traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Some personal vaporizers look like a traditional cigarette, but others have a unique appearance—they have been likened to a “sharpie” type marker with a cigarette holder at one end (illustrated above). They remind me of the old-fashioned cigarette holders once so prominently used by actresses in black-and-white movies (think Bette Davis). The act of “vaping,” or inhaling the vapor, allows the user to get a small hit of nicotine in smoke-free places. The amount of nicotine contained in an e-cigarette can be controlled by the user who can buy it in varying strengths, which makes the e-cig an effective method to stop smoking.

From what I’ve seen recently online, there is a lot of misinformation about e-cigs and vaping in public. The inhaled vapor does contain a small amount of nicotine, but the exhaled vapor is not second-hand smoke. In fact, it isn’t smoke at all. What it is is a liquid vapor that is often flavored like coffee, chocolate, spices, and fruits. If any scent is detected at all, it is that flavoring. For users who’ve gradually cut their nicotine use to nothing, but haven’t eliminated the physical hand-to-mouth habit associated with smoking, there are flavored liquids that contain no nicotine at all.

The jury is still out in terms of whether or not vaping an e-cig is harmful to others, but Russell Wilder, owner of Top Shelf Cigar & Tobacco Shoppe, who vapes when he doesn’t have time to enjoy a cigar, advises that e-cigs are far less harmful to the user than actual cigarettes. Although the liquid added to a personal vaporizer contains nicotine, it does not contain the other chemicals commonly found in tobacco cigarettes.

For our fellow passengers who are sniping that the vapor from an e-cig disturbs their breathing, that children should not see e-cigs in use because they ‘mimic’ actual smoking, and a variety of other complaints, I say hold on a moment and educate yourselves. Cigarette smoke has been eliminated for the most part on cruise ships and non-smokers should be pleased. They should also use some common sense when rallying to ban what offends them—sooner or later something they enjoy could be considered offensive. And those who choose to vape? They should be considerate of the rules. Some cruise lines are paying attention to their passengers’ comments and taking the position that e-cigs should be treated the same as traditional cigarettes. In fact, Norwegian Cruise Line states, “Electronic cigarettes cannot be used in public areas where there is a No Smoking policy in force; simply because these cigarettes look so realistic and therefore other guests’ perception is that we are not enforcing the No Smoking rule.”

Of note and in fairness, I must disclose that I’m not personally bothered by smokers. My husband Mel usually relaxes with a cigar after dinner while I go to the showlounge and I often join him when the show is over. We personally prefer ships with comfortable cigar lounges that suit our lifestyle. Mel’s favorites are aboard Silversea and MSC Cruises ships.


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