Light up? The UK's first e-cigarette bar opens in Shoreditch

(Photo: Darko Skender)

The UK's first ever electronic cigarette bar opened in London yesterday, amidst debates about whether or not it should be legal to smoke them in public.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, simulate smoking behaviour without the use of tobacco or producing any smoke or vapour.

They use heat to vaporise a solution containing nicotine, and have been proposed as a way to help smokers quit the habit.

There has been a sharp increase in their popularity, with an estimated 1.3 million adult consumers in the UK alone. However, there is confusion about where they can and cannot be used, and this is stopping many people from using them in pubs, bars and clubs, despite the fact that this is, currently, legal.

But #vypesocial, a venue in Shoreditch, has been specifically set up as an e-cigarette bar with the aim of "redefining sociability".

Many people complain of being left alone by friends who disappear outside to smoke on a night out, and smokers themselves are often left solo while feeding their addiction. #vypesocial wants to create an environment that "enhances[s] the sociability between smokers and non-smokers during a night out".

The venue, open until the end of the month, is working with various partners to host a series of pop-up, e-cigarette friendly events right across the areas of dating, gaming, film, food and clubbing, and is hoping that this will encourage e-smokers to light up indoors.

However, this is likely to cause some controversy, as e-cigarettes themselves are currently at the centre of a debate in the UK health industry.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has announced its desire to have smoking e-cigarettes banned in public, while medical professionals are concerned that it will make them seem appealing to young people in particular, and may actually result in an increase in the number of smokers.

The BMA website asserts that allowing the e-cigarettes to be smoked in public place may "undermine efforts to prevent or stop smoking by making cigarette use seem normal in public and at work".