Politicians, forever being accused of acting in their own best interests, may just have set a precedent for how vaping will be treated in the country at large. Smokers and vapers in Parliament knew that this move would also impact on their free choice to use nicotine.
As an ex-smoker, Labour's Kevin Barron, who was previously the chairman of the health committee, said at the time of Bercow’s announcement: “We have to be very careful when people are coming off cigarettes and on to e-cigarettes that we encourage them – it's better for their health and there's no good evidence that e-cigarettes are being used by people to start smoking.”
Even non-smokers joined in lambasting the proposed move. Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “This is crazy. Are the House authorities going to force them to congregate with all the smokers in those shelters? How will that help their health? This is a perverse consequence of the nanny state.”
In January, the House of Commons Administration Committee made a recommendation to Bercow. Members are to be allowed to vape in the Portcullis atrium (but not in parts that are enclosed), within their own offices and when enjoying a £2.90 taxpayer’s subsidised pint in Stanger’s Bar (subsidised to the tune of £7million a year).
Ex-smokers had been hoping to obtain the old Smoking Room and having it renamed The Vaping Room, but this was not granted. Despite this, it will be difficult for the government to force through a stringent interpretation of the TPD on the country when MPs and researchers enjoy the ability to vape at work.
This comes on the back of news that Conservative Mark Pawsey, member for Rugby and Bulkington, has set up an all-party parliamentary group to support electronic cigarette users.
Spanning members from the Lords and the Commons, they will investigate the industry, the efficacy and the benefits of vaping. “I first became interested in e-cigarettes after visiting a local business selling the devices and since that time have become more convinced of their effectiveness as cessation devices to help people quit smoking tobacco. The e-cigarette industry is rapidly growing and I believe it is a sector which demands further scrutiny and investigation from MPs and have set up a new APPG on the devices which exactly this in mind,” said Pawsey.
He personally believes that the market requires stricter regulation but that the regulations developed should not ruin businesses such as the local one he visited.
A testament to the power of vapers, he added: “In the last year many of my constituents have contacted me to say that without e-cigarettes they would not have been able to give up smoking so I think more work must be done in order to establish what role they can play in helping more people quit using tobacco.”