I remember when I first heard about e-cigarettes, I wondered if they were some sort of virtual reality experience through an avatar that somehow gave people the same sensation they get from actually smoking cigarettes. But of course that’s not what they are. E-cigarettes are battery operated electronic devices that deliver nicotine through a vapor that is tobacco-free. Because the vapor is tobacco-free, it doesn’t contain tobacco’s cancer causing chemicals, also known as tar. However, the second hand vapor of e-cigarettes contains many other carcinogens including formaldehyde, benzene and nitrosamines. So the smoker may be simply trading one form of carcinogen for another. The FDA recently ruled that it will begin regulating e-cigarettes just as it does tobacco products, so we should know more soon.
So what’s a landlord to do if a person is smoking e-cigarettes as opposed to good, old fashioned, tobacco filled cigarettes? Good question. The main concern about tobacco smoke in rentals is the strong odor it leaves behind that can be extremely difficult and costly to remove. At this time, I am not aware of any studies that have been done regarding the impact of the odor e-cigarettes leave behind, if any. I think the key question to ask is, “what is smoking?” It may sound silly, but I think it is a fundamental question that must be asked. When I look up the definition of “smoking” in MS Word, one of the definitions is “to inhale the smoke of any substance that can burn and be inhaled.” Therefore, I would define the use of e-cigarettes to be what we have traditionally known to be called “smoking.” Based on my experience, if you don’t allow smoking in your property, the most conservative approach to take is to not allow e-cigarette smoking either. Some tenants may try to challenge this definition, so be prepared with your response. Until we know more about e-cigarettes and their by-products, you may want to take the most conservative approach.