A PENSIONER was told to leave a bingo hall for smoking...a fake cigarette.

Helen Skinner, 70, was ticked off for puffing on her electronic cigarette during a night out at the Rio Bingo Hall in Canvey.

Despite assuring the manager the device was not a real cigarette, she was still ordered to either put it away or leave.

Mrs Skinner of Kings Park, Canvey, said: “It was very embarrassing. I was made to feel like I was being antisocial.

“I’ve only been using the electronic cigarette for a week and it’s really been helping me. This was the first time I’d tried to use it in public.

“I kept trying to explain that it wasn’t a real cigarette, but the manager just kept saying, you can’t smoke in here. But I wasn’t smoking! I would never try smoking in a public place now, we all know the rules. I ended up just leaving as I was so annoyed. It ruined my night.”

Mrs Skinner says using the device has helped her cut down her 30-a-day habit to just two or three.

She said: “It’s already helped me a lot.

“I’m trying to give up, but it’s really hard, that’s why I need to be able to use the electronic cigarette when I go out.”

Mrs Skinner, who has smoked all her adult life, bought the £39 aid from a stall at Basildon Market.

She added: “I didn’t even know they existed until I saw them. For hardcore smokers like me they are a godsend.”

Since the smoking ban came in last year, there has been a boom in the sale of electronic cigarettes.

They use replaceable cartridges which satisfy the cravings of smokers by providing shots of nicotine. However, they do not contain the harmful carcinogens or tar found in a traditional tobacco cigarette.

They have become increasingly popular as they are not covered by the smoking ban and are allowed in public places under the Health Act of 2006 – although some airlines do not allow passengers to use them.

Anne Tabony, manager of the Rio Bingo Club based in Furtherwick Road, said: “I did ask the lady to ‘smoke’ her device outside as I thought it was in the best interests of the club.

“Although it wasn’t a real cigarette, it looked as though it was and I did not want other people thinking we were allowing a customer to blatantly smoke inside the club.”