E-cigarettes are hot topic!
The rise in the use of electronic cigarettes leaves employers with the task of updating their smoking policies. E-cigarettes are battery powered devices filled with liquid nicotine, which are a tobacco free method of smoking. Those that use the devices are known as ‘vapers’, rather than smokers.
The Health Act 2006 banned normal smoking in enclosed or substantially enclosed public places, including the workplace. As e-cigarettes are not covered by this legislation, they can be used anywhere unless restrictions are put in place by employers. Be mindful that “anywhere” includes areas such as at a work desk, in work toilets, on a building site or in a company vehicle.
There are a number of pros and cons to be noted about the use of e-cigarettes within the above mentioned places:
- They prevent employees from going out to designated areas for smoking breaks, which saves time and prevents the outside areas of a building looking unprofessional.
- They reduce the litter of cigarette butts, particularly on building sites/workplaces.
- They promote a healthier workforce, as tobacco smoking should be discouraged.
- The use of e-cigarettes may distract/irritate other employees, as some do still give off vapour, albeit harmless. This may be bother others in a confined space, such as a company vehicle, and could lead to disputes between employees.
- They could be distracting for the ‘vapers’ themselves, especially when carrying out “hands-on” tasks on building sites. If employees are pre-occupied with their e-cigarettes, accidents may be more likely.
- They are potentially fire hazards if used near flammable materials.
- They may be seen as unprofessional to clients/customers that visit the company’s offices or sites.
- Their use may be seen as normalising smoking and encouraging nicotine intake. The ‘vaper’ does have alternative, less obvious options, such as concealed nicotine patches.
- The health risks involved with e-cigarettes are not yet fully known.
Large companies such as the BBC and JCB have banned the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace and this is a policy decision being followed by most employers. Those that wish to use the devices can only do so in the designated smoking areas. Employers may wish to aid those trying to quit smoking by having separate designated areas for smoking tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes. However, this requires space and may not be a popular option if it means reducing the communal areas for non-smokers.
We would advise that a clear policy is implemented so that employees are clear about the position and it would be prudent to do so before widespread use of the devices takes place.
Therefore, if employers do wish to regulate the use of e-cigarettes, their company smoking policy should be updated to state when and where they can be used, if at all. The policy should be circulated to all employees and be clear that non-compliance will result in disciplinary action.
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