What are the issues concerning E-Cigarettes in the Workplace?
E-cigarettes in the workplace
The use of e-cigarettes, personal vaporisers and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) is on the increase and their use in the work place presents considerable challenges for employers.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that mimic tobacco smoking and are often used as replacements for traditional cigarettes. According to ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) around 2.1 million adults in the UK are currently using e-cigarettes.
The legal position
E-cigarettes fall outside the scope of smoke-free legislation because the act of smoking requires a substance to be burnt. This means that Companies can decide if they wish to allow employees to smoke at work or not.
Issues to consider
• Some employees use e-cigarettes as part of a plan to stop smoking so employers may want to support their use.
• The vapour from e-cigarettes could be annoying to other employees and may present a health risk for others through passive consumption. Research into e-cigarettes is at an early stage and so employers cannot be certain that they have no effect on other people working in the same room.
• Some e-cigarettes look very similar to real cigarettes so other employees and clients or customers may think that real cigarettes are being smoked in the workplace. Even if Companies decide to allow the use of e-cigarettes at work, it is probably advisable to require employees to obtain prior management approval so that line managers are at least aware of who may be smoking e-cigarettes in their teams.
• If employees are allowed to use a designated area to smoke e-cigarettes, should this be in the same area used by traditional smokers? Users of e-cigarettes may object to this, perhaps arguing that they are using e-cigarettes to stop smoking traditional cigarettes and having to stand with colleagues smoking traditional cigarettes may make this more difficult for them. Employers may wish to consider the creation of a separate e-cigarette smoking area.
The way forward
Whatever they decide to do, employers must be clear about what their rules are on the use of e-cigarettes and develop or review existing policies accordingly. It is also advisable to provide employees with links to, or information about, the support available for employees wishing to give up smoking.
When new rules or policies are introduced, employers must consult with employee representatives (if applicable) and ensure all employees are clear about what the new policy means and how it applies to them. If an employer displays signs and notices in the workplace indicating where smoking is allowed, these should include rules for smokers of traditional cigarettes and rules for smokers of e-cigarettes.