E-cigarettes: Is it time for hoteliers to butt in or butt out?

Editors Note: Since the publication of this article, movement to regulate e-cigarettes by the FDA has progressed. On the local government level and in other countries e-cigarettes have been banned in public places or banned all together. Recently, the European Parliament rejected a proposal to regulate e-cigarettes as medical devices.

The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) boasted the largest show floor in its history featuring more than 3,200 exhibitors. It was a sight to see, with a lot of improvements on things we have been hearing about in the industry for quite a while.

One trend that really stood out to me was the proliferation of e-cigarette vendors and users. The growth in sales of the e-cigarette will likely make it a habit that’s here to stay. Many large tobacco companies seem to think so, including R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard and Altria (think Marlboro).

The technology used for e-cigs is vaporizing, where a nicotine solution is heated up (powered by batteries). As a result, water vapor is emitted. This byproduct is not perceived to be as detrimental as traditional cigarettes to one’s health and the surrounding environment. I was curious about how hotels are addressing use.

I was not surprised to discover that hotel usage policies are largely still undefined. There aren’t many blanket policies established by hotel companies. Instead, I found individual hotels give the thumbs up or down to this trend.

Like I mentioned before, the impact of e-cigarettes is still being explored, both socially and health-wise. The FDA does not regulate these devices, but they are on its radar. E-cigarettes are not restricted under most municipal smoking policies. Plus, the physical effects of using them are still unanswered.

So the question must be asked, when developing a policy, what type of environment is your hotel looking to promote? There’s no doubt that “vaping” is gaining traction and allowing it would be seen as a positive to users—especially since there aren’t many public laws disallowing it. On the flip side, you might consider it as a way to promote a healthy environment, which is a popular outlook in many cultures. I would say this is especially true because the health impact of e-cigarettes is still an unknown quantity.

I don’t expect the regulation of e-cigarettes to be on the frontier for long. In December the New York City Council banned their use in spaces where traditional tobacco products are banned. I expect other cities to follow. In the meantime, hoteliers should consider how to address the issue before it clouds up their lobbies. If your company has a policy on e-cigarettes, please tweet it to @frankwolfe.

Frank Wolfe, CAE is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) and an inductee into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame. He often speaks on hospitality technology through the GUESTROOM 20X program. Follow him on  Twitter @frankwolfe.

Original article was featured in the February issue of the Hotel Management Magazine. Reprinted from the Hotel Management Magazine with permission from http://www.hotelmanagement.net.

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