As e cigs do not produce smoke, they are not subject to the legal enforcement of the UK smoking ban introduced a decade ago. This means that in ‘public places’ it’s technically speaking absolutely fine to use an e cig whereas sparking up a tobacco cigarette could land you with a fine or worse. However there are caveats to this that responsible vapers ought to be aware of.
During the early days of e cigs one of their unique selling points was that they circumnavigated the new legal restrictions upon smoking in public. Many people jumped on the bandwagon because of this reason, but in truth the story they were sold was only partially true.
In the UK the issue surround where it is legal to vape in the UK is mired within the legal definition of exactly what a public place is. Public places include private businesses – basically anywhere that anyone can freely walk into without committing an act of trespass or burglary. In essence this draws no distinction between say for example a local pub, park, post office and so on.
People who own and operate properties such as pubs and shops do have the legal right to determine for themselves what people can do within properties/places under their jurisdiction. Licensed premises are a good example of this, as if a landlord decides that they will not allow the use of e cigs within their premises then that rule can be legally enforced. Should they object to a customer using an e cig they have the right to ask the person to leave, and refusal to do so can be enforced by police intervention (unlikely but does happen).
The same goes for public spaces such as train stations, government building – the list really is exhaustive and each will have their own rules.
Legal enforcement and prosecution carried out against people who flaunt such rules will likely fall under the antisocial behavior/public nuisance bracket.
So if planning to vape in a public space it’s always best to ask permission from the property owner/operator before doing so.