Is It Socially Acceptable to Vape in Public?
If there’s anything Leonardo DiCaprio loves more than a Citi Bike, it’s his vape. His trusty e-cigarette has accompanied him on yacht trips in St. Barth’s, while he scoped out the scene at Art Basel, and most recently served as his date at Saturday night’s SAG Awards. Now that Leo has taken his vape commitment to the next level, we’re confronted with a new etiquette question: Is it ever socially acceptable to vape indoors?
The proper protocol regarding electronic smoking has been up for debate ever since the rise of e-cigarette use. Before New York included e-cigarettes in its no-smoking ban (which prohibits use in bars, restaurants, offices, parks, and on beaches), rules on vaping varied from establishment to establishment. But does the public e-cigarette ban extend to private functions? In the past few years, vaping has been making the rounds at many glamorous circuits: Katy Perry was seen sharing a vape pen with Orlando Bloom at this year’s Golden Globes after-party; Sarah Silverman showed off her liquid pot pen during the Emmy’s red-carpet procession in 2014; and, back when she was still dating Michelle Rodriguez, Cara Delevingne puffed out tiny vapor rings while watching a Knicks game.
Since the smell emitted from e-cigarettes is much less offensive than cigarette smoke (many e-liquids come in bubblegum and fruity flavors), and because it leaves no lingering odor on clothing or hair, many believe e-lighting up at a public gathering is not a faux pas. “There’s a certain smugness to vaping,” said Chloe Malle, Vogue’s Social Editor. “I feel like people think, I’m allowed to do this, don’t try to stop me.” Freelance writer Tulio Espinosa admitted he recently used a vape indoors during a wedding: “I did it twice and people stared, but nobody really said anything.” At a recent art show opening in Brooklyn, the Pax, a small dry herb vaporizer that looks like something that could have been designed by Apple, was casually being passed around the crowd. “What is it with this thing?” asked one of the attendees. “I keep seeing everyone with these in Chelsea.”
“Until [vaping] becomes ubiquitous, people are going to be unsure or nervous about where they can do it,” explained Lizzie Post, who shares her great-great-grandmother Emily’s penchant for doling out social advice and currently hosts a weekly podcast called Awesome Etiquette. “If it’s going to be distracting at all, that’s when I say it’s time to go somewhere else,” she said. “I don’t know what was going on at the moment Leo pulled [his vape] out, but my guess is, all the cameras turned straight to him, and whatever was going on onstage was completely missed.”
Eviana Hartman, a co-owner of Tetra, a new website dedicated to “elevating the aesthetic of smoking,” agreed that it’s always in best taste to simply step outside. “Why wouldn’t you? You might even strike up a conversation with a stranger,” she said. “Or, if you’re trapped inside a Hollywood awards ceremony with no way out and paparazzi hovering, then duck.”
As more and more states legalize marijuana, the social conundrum only becomes trickier. “I’d say, as a general rule of thumb, it’s not polite to brazenly ingest psychoactive substances in public; it might make people uncomfortable,” Hartman said. But even in the most liberal of circumstances, Post believes it’s still important to check with the host first. “You don’t want to steal your host’s thunder by pulling out the vape at a party and getting everyone high,” she said. “At least let your host do that if he or she wants to!”