On 28th January, I was delighted to welcome friends up to Scotland to attend the Glasgow School of Vape in my home city. It was a lively event which attracted many keen vapers along with fellow NNA trustees, associates and supporters, plus a delegation from Cancer Research UK recruiting e-cigarette users for a study. However, the weekend was soured on hearing from those who flew in that Glasgow Airport has installed poor and misleading signage outside the arrivals terminal.
This is a ghastly message to send to new arrivals to my country and in direct contravention of guidance offered by Public Health England which states “it is never acceptable to require vapers to share the same outdoor space with smokers”. It is also, according to my guests, rigorously enforced by staff outside the terminal.
The signage at the airport is new so I asked to be contacted by the airport to talk to them about it. They called me, and I patiently listened while the representative explained their policy. I cannot be sure if he was having to defend it as part of his role or he was responsible for formulating it, but he insisted that he had read all the literature. I doubted that, so emphasised Public Health England’s guidance in case he was unaware of it. I could not understand why the airport authority believed it was proportionate to ban vaping in the open air and herd vapers into smoking sheds in the middle of a central reservation where the exhausts of diesel-powered buses were by far a more prevalent threat to health.
The airport’s representative assured me that vaping was permitted in some areas, such as the car parks and in the central reservation outside of the smoking shelter - which is still unreasonably precautionary - but their signage fails to communicate this. I asked if their signs could be altered to that effect or new signs be put up to make it clear, but they said this was “not practical”.
I found it baffling how the airport could spend a significant amount of money on signs which are misleading and could lead to adverse health outcomes but are unwilling to consider a small outlay to properly convey what they claim is true to their policy.
Lastly, I asked when their policy would be reviewed and if the NNA could be involved in giving advice. The response was that a review is slated for 18 months’ time but that consulting with us would be “a non-starter”.
This kind of blinkered and, sadly, ignorant policy-making is increasingly common which is why the NNA has recently committed to a campaign entitled “Challenging Prohibition”. Policies such as the one at Glasgow Airport are inadvertently sending a message that vaping is as harmful as smoking which has led to confusion and, subsequently, an increase in the mistaken perception that vaping should be avoided. Glasgow Airport may believe that they are doing the right thing, but they are unwittingly contributing to flawed understanding of risk reduced products which is arguably harming the public’s health.
It is true that Public Health England’s guidance is not necessarily transferable to Scotland, but NHS Scotland and ASH Scotland are both sympathetic to harm reduction policies and I’m sure would agree that Glasgow Airport’s policy is overly restrictive and not conducive to health, especially considering that Scottish hospitals are increasingly being more receptive to vaping by repealing blanket outdoor bans in their grounds.
It is also disappointing that the airport authority is not willing to revisit this flawed policy until a year and a half’s time. As tobacco control activists always tell us in relation to other measures, every day of delay before a control measure is adopted by government will result in hundreds or thousands of more young people taking up lit tobacco and more smokers continuing to smoke. The airport’s policy is irresponsible and should be reviewed as soon as possible, not in summer 2019.
The very last thing Glasgow Airport should be doing is forcing vapers into a smoking shelter, because they will be more likely to light up a cigarette. Yet that is exactly what their signage demands, and they appear stubbornly unwilling to correct it.
You can view our materials on Challenging Prohibition here, and we encourage NNA supporters to put these resources to good use by politely writing to establishments which have counterproductive policies such as that at Glasgow Airport.