As vaping and e-cigarette usage continues to grow exponentially in popularity nationwide, many vapers wonder about the specific rules and policies surrounding vaping in restaurants, bars, cafes, and other dining establishments. Currently, there are no federal regulations restricting vaping and e-cigarette use in restaurants, bars, or foodservice businesses on a national level. So policies vary widely depending on the state, city, county, and even individual restaurants and venues.
In this comprehensive article, we’ll thoroughly examine the latest vaping laws and restrictions pertaining to restaurants and bars, tips for proper vaping etiquette, perspectives arguing both for and against banning vaping in dining establishments, and what the future may hold regarding coming regulations in this area.
Federal and State Vaping Laws for Restaurants, Bars and Food Establishments
At present, there is no federal law in effect in the United States outright prohibiting or restricting the use of vaping devices and e-cigarettes in restaurants, bars, cafes, or other businesses selling and serving food on a nationwide basis. The regulation of indoor vaping practices in dining establishments is currently left to individual state and local jurisdictions.
- 25 states have laws on the books specifically prohibiting vaping and e-cigarette usage in restaurants, bars, cafes, food trucks, and other businesses selling food for consumption on premises. These states include California, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, and others primarily concentrated in the Northeast and West Coast.
- 9 states (including Florida, Wisconsin, and others) take the approach of allowing vaping in restaurants and bars unless explicitly banned by that particular business.
- The remaining states currently have no specific vaping statutes focused on regulating use in restaurants, bars, etc., instead leaving vaping policies for dining establishments up to county and municipal governments to potentially address through local ordinances if they wish.
Always check your specific state and local ordinances and laws, as regulations vary widely across different states and areas regarding the legality of vaping in restaurants, cafés, bars, breweries, food trucks, and other businesses primarily selling food for immediate on-premise consumption.
Local Laws and Ordinances on Vaping in Restaurants and Bars
Often individual cities and counties enact far stricter vaping and e-cigarette regulations for restaurants and bars than their broader state laws dictate:
- New York City bans vaping in all indoor restaurants and bars within its jurisdiction, even though New York State does not currently have any statewide prohibitions specifically targeting vaping in dining establishments.
- Chicago, Illinois prohibits vaping in restaurants and bars within city limits through local health ordinances, despite the absence of any statewide vaping bans for restaurants and bars across Illinois.
- Major cities in Texas including Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Fort Worth have all enacted local ordinances banning vaping inside restaurants and bars licensed by the city.
- Some states like Florida and Wisconsin expressly allow counties and municipalities to impose stricter restaurant and bar vaping regulations beyond lighter statewide standards.
Always consult both statewide statutes and local municipal or county ordinances to determine precisely what rules apply to vaping within a particular restaurant or foodservice business. Ultimately though, the individual establishment can choose to set their own vaping policy beyond what is mandated by law, whether that means further restricting or permitting use compared to what ordinances dictate.
Vaping Policies Set by Individual Restaurants Based on Preferences
Even in jurisdictions where indoor vaping is not explicitly prohibited in restaurants based on state or local laws, many individual dining establishments nonetheless restrict vaping on their premises through company policies:
- Most national fast food and casual dining chain restaurants completely prohibit vaping anywhere on their properties, including both indoor seating areas and outdoor patios.
- Fine dining restaurants, steakhouses, and other upscale dining venues very frequently ban vaping indoors to maintain a refined ambiance.
- Some pubs, bars, and breweries allow vaping only in designated external sections like patios and rooftops, provided there are no local ordinances banning it.
- Family-centric restaurants disallow indoor vaping almost universally due to concerns over exposing children to vaping behavior during meals.
- Vaping policies tend to vary most significantly at dive bars, nightclubs, music venues and similar businesses, highly dependent upon local vaping cultural norms.
When in doubt, it is always wise to check with restaurant management directly about their policies and rules on vaping or e-cigarette use on premises before assuming it is permitted. Posted signs may also provide guidance on any specific indoor or outdoor bans, as well as designated vaping areas if provided.
Restaurant Vaping Etiquette Tips for Dining Establishments That Allow Use
For restaurants and bars where vaping is permitted either through policy or lack of prohibition, here are some recommended etiquette tips to follow when vaping to limit impacts on other patrons and staff:
- Always first ask restaurant or bar staff if unsure whether vaping is permitted on premises before engaging in use. Don’t assume it is allowed.
- Avoid vaping near families with children to limit exposing minors to vaping behavior during meals.
- Politely ask neighboring diners seated nearby if they have any concerns or objections before initiating vaping at your table.
- Opt to take small, discrete puffs vs. conspicuously large, ostentatious plumes which can draw unwanted negative attention when vaping.
- Be ready to willingly stop vaping immediately with no objections if requested to do so by restaurant management or staff for any reason.
- Move to an outdoor section away from the main dining areas if needed to vape in a more discreet manner that won’t disturb other patrons.
- Carefully follow any signage regarding designated outdoor restaurant or bar vaping areas.
- Never leave spent vaping cartridges or waste behind in the restaurant – properly dispose of in waste bins.
Differing Perspectives on Banning vs. Allowing Vaping in Restaurants
There are thoughtful arguments made both in favor of completely banning vaping in restaurants, bars and cafés, as well as allowing the practice given certain reasonable limitations:
Common Arguments Supporting Banning Vaping in Restaurants
- Protects all patrons and restaurant staff from health risks and discomforts associated with exposure to secondhand vaping emissions and aerosols in confined spaces.
- Avoids inadvertently exposing children and families dining out to observe vaping behaviors, which could increase interest in experimentation or normalizing underage use.
- Eliminates vapor clouds generated by e-cigarette users which can detract from a pleasant dining ambiance.
- Simplifies legal compliance for restaurant owners by matching existing indoor smoking bans with parallel vaping prohibitions.
- Discourages opportunities for minors below legal vaping age to access and initiate unsafe nicotine or THC vaping habits.
Common Arguments Against Totally Banning Vaping in Restaurants
- Infringes on personal freedom and individual rights of adult vapers who wish to use e-cigarettes while dining out.
- Forces vapers to go outdoors away from their own party and meal to vape, creating a social stigma.
- E-cigarette vapor dissipates much more quickly than traditional smoke without lingering unwanted odors.
- Banning vaping indoors further complicates smoking cessation efforts for those trying to quit cigarettes through vaping.
- With appropriate discretion and etiquette, vaping vapers can enjoy e-cigarettes reasonably without necessarily disturbing other patrons.
Restaurant owners in particular must weigh these types of considerations very carefully when developing their own business vaping policies to properly accommodate all diners. There are good faith arguments on both sides.
The Potential Future Trajectory of Vaping Regulations for Restaurants
As vaping continues to surge exponentially in popularity nationwide, particularly among youth demographics, expect substantially more states and local jurisdictions to enact new regulations on vaping in restaurants in coming years:
- Many U.S. states currently lacking vaping-specific laws are progressively considering implementing new bans on vaping in indoor dining establishments.
- Cities and counties with no policies on the books banning restaurant vaping often eventually follow suit after nearby municipalities enact restrictions.
- Influential public health organizations and advocates vocally support prohibiting indoor vaping fully in restaurants, bars and cafés nationwide to protect patron and employee health.
- Potential federal regulations or laws on vaping in restaurants could emerge in time if state and local policies remain highly fragmented.
For the time being, vaping regulations specifically pertaining to restaurants, bars and other dining establishments remain very inconsistent and open to interpretation across different parts of the country. However, the overall legal and regulatory trend appears to be heading toward more extensive and uniformly adopted bans on public vaping in restaurants and bars across more states and communities. Expect the vaping policies landscape regarding indoor use in cafés and dining establishments to keep quickly evolving in coming years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it legal for restaurants to allow vaping in designated outdoor patio seating areas?
It depends locally. Some restaurant patio bans exceed general indoor bans, while other areas exempt outdoor seating. Always explicitly ask in advance before assuming patio vaping is permitted.
Do restaurant and bar indoor vaping bans also apply to marijuana vapes and THC cartridges?
Yes, any prohibitions cover vaping devices of all kinds, not just those for nicotine. Rules pertain to the physical action of vaping, so cannabis vapes and weed pens fall under the same indoor restrictions.
If there are no relevant vaping laws where they operate, can restaurants still choose to allow vaping indoors if they wish to?
No, not if indoor vaping is already banned under existing state or local ordinances. However, where vaping is legal, restaurants can set their own internal policies either permitting or restricting vaping indoors at their discretion.
Do indoor vaping bans at restaurants also apply to hookah lounges and cigar bars?
Sometimes. Many blanket exemptions carved out for hookah or cigar bars have been eliminated in recent years, but always carefully check your specific local vaping laws for any exceptions.
How are restaurant and bar indoor vaping restrictions typically enforced?
Through diligent monitoring and enforcement by restaurant staff, anonymous tips and complaints from other patrons, and periodic compliance inspections by the local health department. Fines, permit suspensions or permanent revocations may result for violations.
In summary, regulations pertaining to vaping and e-cigarette usage in restaurants, bars, cafés, and other dining establishments currently remain fragmented and inconsistent nationwide. While discretion and common courtesy can go a long way for vapers, the trend appears to be progressing toward more uniform bans on public indoor vaping in restaurants and bars, driven by health concerns. Expect the vaping policies landscape for America’s cafés and dining establishments to continue rapidly evolving and solidifying over the next several years.