On Metro, can you e-smoke one if you got one?

John Kelly
Columnist May 14, 2013

Smoking’s not allowed on the Metro. But what about e-smoking?

Tuesday, I was headed toward Court House on the Orange Line when I saw a woman holding what I thought was a high-end felt-tip marker. It had a round barrel that tapered to a narrower point. Then she stuck the narrow end in her mouth, sucked, and blew out a white cloud.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

It didn’t smell like cigarette smoke, at least from where I was sitting. It seemed like more of a vapor. And, indeed, that’s what it was.

The modern nicotine-delivery device — the electronic cigarette — doesn’t produce smoke. Nicotine-infused liquid is heated, creating a vapor that the user inhales and then exhales.

In the blessedly cigarette-free Metro, it was jarring to see the woman “vape.” (That’s the term the e-cig community has adopted for what they do.) People are still figuring out how to treat the devices. The Department of Transportation said it was going to ban them on airline flights and then decided to defer to individual airlines. In Hawaii, the buses of the Oahu Transit Services implemented a ban May 1.

But what about on Metro? Things are as hazy as a cloud of smoke from an unfiltered Camel.

“What most people don’t realize is that it is actually local ordinances that govern what’s prohibited on Metro,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

In 2010, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II ruled that the state’s smoking ban does not apply to electronic cigarettes. On the other hand, the D.C. Council is considering the Electronic Cigarette Parity Amendment Act of 2013, which would classify fake cigarettes pretty much the same as real ones.

It’s possible to envision a time when e-smokers puff away at Clarendon, Court House and Rosslyn and then put away their cigarettes when they cross the Potomac.

What about now? Will you get in trouble for using an electronic cigarette on the Metro?

“I think it’s unclear,” Dan said. “I think this is a conversation that the legislative bodies are just beginning to consider. I think it will be something that there’s increasing clarity around as we move forward in time.”

In an online forum for e-cigarette smokers, a user complained that he was cited for vaping in the New York subway system. Another user responded: “Do us all a favor and don’t draw negative attention to us. If you aren’t supposed to smoke somewhere, don’t vape there.”

That makes sense to me. What do you think?

Please sit down

The Wave has become the subject of some debate at Nationals Park, even among the Nats players.

I’m firmly in the anti-Wave crowd, not because I’m a baseball purist — I love such recent innovations as the KissCam, the Racing Presidents and the T-shirt toss — but because I’m against anything that might endanger the safety of my beer. For what I paid for it, I don’t want to risk losing a single drop.

Not that I’m militant about it. I will greet your Wave with a meh. I get more worked up over two other extracurricular activities at the ballpark:

Can people, please, stop shouting “O!” during the national anthem’s “O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave” lyric? That’s a holdover from the days when the Baltimore Orioles — the O’s — were the nearest team we baseball-starved fans in Washington had to root for. “O!” doesn’t belong here. It belongs in Baltimore. Only a few people do it — many fewer than when the Nats first came to town — but even one is one too many.

I also don’t understand why people stand up and remove their hats for “God Bless America,” which is occasionally played late in the game.

I’ve noticed that when “God Bless America” comes on, many seated fans look at each other nervously, as if unsure what to do. Some will stand, figuring that anything with both ”God” and “America” in the title is worthy of respect. Once a few people start standing, others follow suit. Nobody wants to be seen as anti-American.

But this isn’t the national anthem.

It’s a slippery slope. What’s next? Standing for “This Land Is Your Land”? Standing for “A Horse With No Name” because it was recorded by America?

Stretch if you like during “GBA” — or even stand if you want. But don’t feel that you have to stand. And don’t give anyone else the hairy eyeball because they choose not to rise to the occasion.

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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