Who owns the air?

Sometimes my thoughts head off on a strange tangent.

Take for example the item today from the UK about Network Rail banning e-cigarettes in New Street Station.

OK, I had the usual thoughts about Nannyism, petty rules and bigoted Puritans, but my thoughts went a little beyond that.

Basically, by banning vaping they are implicitly claiming ownership of the air.  Thou shalt not pollute our air with your vapour.  Now technically you can argue that the air within a building belongs to the building, as to all intents and purposes the air is contained within that building.  But the same cannot be applied to stations, playgrounds or sports stadia, as the air is in constant motion, in and out of the area without giving anyone any time to lay claim to it.  Or are all British railway stations now fully enclosed with big doors that open whenever a train arrives or departs?

Now Network Rail have a perfect right to stop me vandalising their seats or defacing their walls, because the seats and walls are their property.  Equally they have a right to complain if I piss on the platform as they presumably would then have to wash the piss off [though they probably wouldn’t].  However, by smoking or vaping I am not affecting any of their property, unless they are laying a de facto claim to the air?

Suppose I am walking down the road, puffing on my pipe [or vaping – little difference to the argument] and I decide to enter a pub, shop or hotel.  Once I enter into the building, I am now using their air as I have to enter through a doorway, and under the law they have a right to ask me to stop.  Suppose however I decide to catch a train.  I have to enter the station building [and therefore use their air] where they will bitch about my smoke [or vapour].  However I then leave the station building and step onto the platform where I am back in the open air again, and no one can lay a claim to that.

Even the grammar gives a hint here.  You go into a building but theoretically you can't go into a playground, sports stadium or station platform, unless you intend to burrow down into the ground.  You go onto those places which is slightly different – they are not enclosed.

Then you get strange situations.  Suppose there is an open air exit gate from the platform.  Inside that gate they claim the air is theirs but take one step through the gate and the air is no longer theirs.  Yet if I light up just outside the gate and the breeze blows the smoke back over the wall, my air has become their air and there is fuck all they can do about the smoke.  Equally if I light up just inside the gate [with a strong breeze blowing] they can order me about even though they are going to lose my smoke within a fraction of a second as it blows across the fence.

As I said….

Just a strange tangential thought…….

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Comments

Who owns the air? — 10 Comments

      • I once flew on a flight to England full of returning rugby supporters who had come to Dublin for the weekend with no change of clothes and seemed to have drunk copious amounts of beer. Did the gas discharged in the cabin belong to the airline?

        • Once it vacated its originator [through whatever orifice] then presumably it would.  You'd better take up your complaints with the airline so…..

  1. If,and I say if, the owner of a building DOES own the air therein, how high up does the claim to ownership go? Take Landsdow ….. the Aviva Stadium for example. Does the sporting Insurance Company own all of the air up to the roof of the stands but not above that point? Or does it own it up to the height of the average person at ground level? And if ownership of the air confers rights then does not also come with responsibilities like air quality? Are customers to these types of venues ensured of good air or conversely, are they insured against bad air? Indeed, does our Constitution promise the citizen high quality air Nationwide?

    • My point is that if [and I say if] the ownership of air does apply it can only apply when said air is contained.  In other words, if the building has a floor, ceiling and walls it can be said to be a "contained mass".  The Avi.. Lansdowne Road Stadium cannot be classed as a contained mass of air as it has no roof and as such cannot be owned by anyone. Even the air under the roofed stands cannot be claimed, as it too is not a contained mass.

  2. I’ve been saying exactly the same thing for ages, but in a different way. Inside a building, there is space. In that space, there are things which are fixed and things which are moving around. For example, inside a library there are bookshelves, chairs, desks, etc, and there are people moving around looking at books, sitting at desks turning the pages of books, etc. The owners of the library building have the right to control the siteing of things and the movement of those things and the people who use the library. That applies also to what happens outside buildings, for example, in a playground. “Keep off the grass”, “No ball games”, “Pets must be kept on a lead”. But in each case, there has to be solid justification, which is not the same as is the case in the space inside a building.
    So we come to the crux of the matter. The owner of a building might decide to ban smoking and vaping in that space, and he has every right to do so. But the space outside the building does not belong to him, even if he owns the land. What he can control is what the land is used for, such as picnicking, playing football, parking a caravan. But he cannot ban what happens in the space above the ground. You want to light a cigarette lighter to warm your hands? You want to eat a sandwich as you walk along? Why not?
    Needless to say, there are exceptions, such as the forecourt of a petrol station, places where aircraft are being refuelled.That is because of the known dangers of naked flames and even just simple sparks in such spaces.
    So it is not really about the air at all. It is about space.

    • I fully agree.  There is however a subtle difference between air and space.  Space is fixed an immutable – you walk through a gate between one field and another and you have left one space and entered another.  Air however is no respecter of space and will move freely unless it is an enclosed space. 

      Another tangential thought – if for example some kids kick a ball into my garden, does it become my property?  I would presume it would though it's not something I would enforce [unless they really pissed me off].  Similarly if rain falls onto my land it become my property and I can use it for my own purposes.  However, air is fluid and therefore cannot become mine?  Therefore fluid things such as air, fog, vapour or smoke cannot become property and are therefore ungovernable?

      This is the kind of topic that would keep a pub in conversation for ages!

  3. They are laying ownership claims to anyone touching their property, if you stand on their land they can enforce their rules. Presumably carefully timed jumps would remove this authority, perhaps the origin of the leaping lords.

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