In August, London Midland, a train company operating out of Birmingham, decided that due to an allegedly large number of customer complaints it would apply its own interpretation to the Railway Bylaws and deem vaping on a train to be an offence. It decided that the best way to go about publicising this change of policy would be by press release, which was picked up by the Birmingham Mail. Unfortunately this decision went badly for them, as you can read on Dick Puddlecote's blog here: 'The Curious Case Of The Criminal Offence That Isn't'
Perhaps London Midland had received complaints. If so, it is seriously doubtful whether the number could be described as large. In any case, their handling of the matter has not only angered a great many people, but has also made them look rather foolish. This is unfortunate but entirely their own fault.
In a parallel reality London Midland might have actually thought about their policy when it comes to vaping on trains and in stations and come to a different decision. They could have asked themselves how they could keep all of their customers happy, rather than penalising some of them in order to appease others (I'm not entirely sure whether 'others' in this case was other passengers or the train version of some prohibitionist pseudo health agency like Healthy Stadia). Like stadia, trains tend to be divided into sections (carriages), which facilitates having different policies in different sections. Train companies have managed to do that for years with simple signage denoting whether a carriage is for smoking (in the old days), for being quiet, or for first class travel.
If London Midland had designated just one carriage in each train as 'vaping allowed' and marked it with suitable signage, those who want to vape would have been happy to have somewhere to go where they could vape in peace, and those who prefer not to be around vaping could have avoided it by sitting in any of the other carriages. This is no different to designating one carriage as a place to go if you don't want to listen to other people's phone conversations, and having the rest available to anyone who doesn't actually care (or wants to make a phone call). Everyone is catered for and everyone knows the rules. If someone is vaping in a non vaping carriage other people are more empowered to complain, because vaping has been provided for elsewhere. Everyone is happy.
The Freedom Association's Freedom to Vape Campaign is calling for train operators to recognise that vaping is not against the law and should not be routinely included in an organisation's smokefree policy, as per the Government's Tobacco Control Plan.
You can read more about the The Freedom to Vape Campaign here.
We join them in urging all operators and managers of transport, venues or workplaces to carefully consider whether the 'easy' route of a blanket ban is really the best thing for their customers, employees and business, or whether a considered and inclusive policy would be more appropriate. You will hear a lot more from us on this issue in the near future.
London Midland should consider using signs like these ones ^^^ (free to adapt and share for non-commercial purposes)