WASHINGTON — Smoking’s not allowed on Washington’s Metro system. But what about e-smoking?

I was riding on the Orange Line recently 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.

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 on Metro in Virginia 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.


The Wave has become the subject of some debate at Nationals Park in D.C., 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 get more worked up about another extracurricular activity at the ballpark:


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.

John Kelly’s column “John Kelly’s Washington” appears Sunday through Thursday online and in The Washington Post. He blogs at “John Kelly’s Commons.”

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