With the raised consciousness over the last several years about the health affects of second hand smoke, including lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, many companies, particularly in the U.S. have instituted smoking bans or designated smoking areas in the workplace.
Enter the electronic cigarette; battery-charged tobacco cigarette look-a-likes designed to be used as a replacement for ‘real’ cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain nicotine which is inhaled through a device that looks like a regular cigarette and are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to tobacco. Users of e-cigarettes do not consider themselves ‘smoking’ but ‘vaping’.
There are currently no legal restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace so employers are free to create their own policies. But for many employers, creating policies may not be an easy exercise – partly because e-cigarettes are not officially classified as traditional cigarettes by regulatory bodies.
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Proponents of these alternative cigarettes argue that the device helps smokers quit traditional cigarettes and that secondhand smoke is not an issue. Advocates add that employers can actually save money by allowing their workers to ‘vape’ at work thus eliminating smoking breaks.
Opponents counter that e-cigarette vapors contain known carcinogens which put the users’ health at risk. Furthermore, use of e-cigarettes in the workplace would essentially go against many company’s existing no smoking policies.
So what should employers do?
First – decide what your company position is on the use of e-cigarettes.
Second – If you decide to include e-cigarettes as part of your company’s ‘no smoking’ policy, update your policy to clearly identify your restrictions relating to e-cigarettes.
For help with drafting or updating policies, review the guide Regulating Electronic Cigarettes and Similar Devices published by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.
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