The use of e-cigarettes in the workplace
Smokefree legislation was introduced in England in 2007, banning smoking in nearly all enclosed workplaces and public spaces, following similar bans in Scotland and Wales. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the legislation. Since the legislation was introduced there has been an increase in the use of e-cigarettes.
Public Health England (PHE) wants to see a tobacco-free generation by 2025. Despite a continuing decline in smoking rates, nearly 1 in 5 adults still smoke and there are around 90,000 regular smokers aged between 11 and 15
Many people are choosing to use electronic cigarettes to help them quit smoking, even though they are not licensed as medicines. Regular electronic cigarette use is confined almost entirely to smokers and ex-smokers. Electronic cigarettes are now the most popular quitting aid.
The use of e-cigarettes splits the opinions of many people as the research furthers our understanding of their benefits and how they impact us.
The question is should they be treated the same way as a cigarette and be subject to smokefree legislation, or even have legislation of their own?
To find this out we have looked into e-cigarettes and in particular found out more about the considerations you should think about in the workplace.
What Exactly is an E-cigarette?
E-cigarettes, personal vaporizers (PVs), and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are battery operated devices that mimic tobacco smoking and are often used as a replacement for cigarettes. They produce a vapour, including flavoured aromas either with or without nicotine, rather than traditional smoke.
Employers should decide whether to allow employees to smoke e-cigarettes, and similar products, in the workplace or ban them as they would ordinary smoking implements.
What do UK Jurisdictions Say About E-cigarettes?
Even though there is currently no official legislation in place in regards to public vaping, UK jurisdictions have expressed how they will approach it:
- England and Scotland – no plans to include e-cigarettes in existing smokefree legislation
- Wales – brought forward a bill to prohibit the use of nicotine inhaling devices in enclosed public spaces
- Northern Ireland – does not have a position yet
What Should Employers Consider before Introducing an E-cigarette Policy?
Only Share a Name
Electronic cigarettes are not the same as cigarettes, which burn tobacco. It is important to remember that, despite sometimes resembling cigarettes and often, but not always, containing nicotine, they are not cigarettes in anything but name.
No Indirect Effect
Public Health England have undertaken many studies on the potential harm from second-hand vapour and have concluded that there is no scientific evidence that identifies harm from indirect exposure to electronic cigarettes.
Social Influencers of Physical Appearance
Even though e-cigarettes don’t produce tobacco, the physical appearance of them can have an impact on younger people who may mistakenly believe it is normal activity for adults and influence them to smoke.
It is not just the product itself you need to think about, but also the risk of fire caused by the rechargeable batteries. The Chief Fire Officers Association have noted a problem with fires caused by products and they advise that if you are concerned by the unauthorised use of any charging device then do not allow them in the workplace.
Effective Quitting Aid
Use of e-cigarettes have been shown to be more effective at getting people to quit smoking than any other nicotine replacement. Data from 2015 ASH Smokefree Britain survey indicates that around 40% of users have already quit smoking and most of the rest are either trying to quit or trying to reduce the amount they smoke
Should you allow the use of E-cigarettes at work?
- Some employees use e-cigarettes as part of a plan to stop smoking, so employers may want to support their use if this is the case.
- The vapour from e-cigarettes might be annoying to some employees. If e-cigarettes are to be allowed in your workplace it is suggested that ‘discrete’ vaping is allowed. Those without flavours and without much smoke would be most appropriate.
- Some e-cigarettes look very similar to real cigarettes so employees or customers may think that real cigarettes are being smoked in the workplace. If smoking e-cigarettes is allowed at work, line managers should be aware of who may be smoking them within their teams. It is best to make it a rule that line management approval is needed to smoke E-cigarettes in the workplace.
Rules and Policies for Smoking E-cigarettes in the Workplace
If you do decide to implement any rules associated with smoking e-cigarettes then you need to ensure that these are clear to all your employees and visitors.
If you already have a policy on smoking or drugs and alcohol then they could include a paragraph about e-cigarettes in there.
When introducing new rules, employers should first consult with any recognised union or elected representatives, and they should speak with all employees to make sure they understand what the new rules mean and that they apply to them.
Employers may want to put up signs or notices in the workplace which make it clear where smoking is allowed (if this is the case) and where it is banned. These should include rules for cigarette smokers and rules for e-cigarette smokers.
The choice is yours…..
Based on the facts about electronic cigarettes the choice is entirely yours as to whether you should have regulations about their use in the workplace.
Remember to consider:
- Be clear about your aims
- Be clear about what you are prohibiting
- Make sure your policy is good for health