Vapes and the Law

Posted 22nd March 2017 by Dave Cross
Electronic cigarettes have exploded in court and been linked to the attempted poisoning of two men. People sent to prison in the UK now face a rise in violence linked to the smoking ban, and some inmates are going to bizarre lengths to obtain their nicotine fix. Ireland plans to allow vaping inside its jails, following on from the success of a British trial.

The worst time for an ecig to explode is possibly when a lawyer is delivering his closing arguments to the jury. Stephen Gutierrez was in the process of defending his client on a charge of arson, Claudy Charles stood accused of setting fire to his car. Only, the crux of the argument was that fires can break out due to electrical faults and not necessarily due to the actions of an individual – but unfortunately for Gutierrez, he was spotted fiddling in his pocket moments before his trousers burst into flame. The Miami brief faces being held in contempt of court.

In Barmouth, North Wales, Stephen Nesbitt is accused of spraying liquid nicotine into the faces of two men, a charge he denies. The charges allege that he “unlawfully and maliciously administered a poison or other destructive of noxious thing namely Liquid Nicotine to both men”, contrary to the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861. He will also answer for a charge common assault at his trial to be held in Caernarfon in July.

Should Nesbitt be found guilty and receive a custodial sentence he will find an atmosphere rife in “assaults and vandalism”, according to the Mirror, as a result of cigarettes being banned inside. They report on an inspectors’ report, which in turn blames the deterioration in behaviour on nicotine withdrawal due to the non-smoking policy.

Rather than turning to the electronic alternative, lags are reportedly “cooking nicotine tea” from ripped up NRT patches. Steve Cocks, chair of the Cardiff Independent Monitoring Board, said. “The restricted prison regime, together with other challenges, such as the ban on smoking in Welsh prisons and the availability of ‘Spice’ have created real challenges during the reporting period.”

Previously, the New York Times has reported that United States county sheriffs noted a reduction in violence after the ecigs were introduced to the jail system: “The thing I like about it is it controls the guy. We had four or five fights last week. One guy who’d had a fight asked for an e-cigarette and it calmed him down. It’s not meant to help inmates, it’s meant to help my guys.”


It is what has driven Irish prisons to follow the vaping roll-out across the UK prison establishment. The new smoking policy is in the process of being finalised in the near future and includes a provision for electronic cigarettes. Which is good news for people like Shaun Brownlow, convicted for the theft of £250 from a vape shop (and a Christmas Tree from Asda).

Finishing on the topic of thefts from vape shops, can you help? The Van Dykes Vapes manager had her phone stolen by a man with receding hair and Bono sunglasses. Fuller details can be found here (including a video and contact details for the VDV team).

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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