E-cigarettes in the workplace â?? should your office be a â??vapeâ?? free zone?
Recent estimations have suggested there are nearly 1.3 million people using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in the UK. Due to rising concern regarding the lack of regulation surrounding e-cigarettes, they are set to be licensed as medicine from 2016.
This has led many employers to questioning what their policy should be toward e-cigarettes.
What is the current law?
Although the smoking of cigarettes in enclosed or substantially enclosed workplaces has been prohibited in England since July 2007 under the Health Act 2006, this does not apply to e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are a battery powered device designed to replicate smoking behaviour without the use of tobacco. A solution of nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals are vaporised and then inhaled by the user.
A visible vapour is exhaled and certain products also contain a light which illuminates when the user inhales.
Although some countries including Australia, Canada and Denmark have banned e-cigarettes, they are not currently covered under the smoking ban in England.
Does this mean employers should allow e-cigarettes in the workplace?
Although the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace is not prohibited, employers do not have to agree to the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace.
E-cigarettes are currently marketed as a safer way to â??smokeâ??, avoiding the harmful effects of tobacco. Despite this, there is no conclusive medical opinion on the safety of e-cigarettes.
The British Medical Association (BMA) believe that more research is needed in order to establish the safety of e-cigarettes. The BMA are advocating stronger controls on where e-cigarettes can be used as some experts question the safety of the chemicals used in them.
This has led many employers to err on the side of caution by banning the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace. However, others believe that e-cigarettes are an important supportive measure in giving up smoking.
It is important to consider how the devices affect others in the workplace. All offices are different and it is currently at your discretion whether e-cigarettes are used in the workplace.
What action should employers take?
No matter what your stance on e-cigarettes, we would recommend all employers to ensure that the company policy on them is clear to all employees.
In order to do this, we would advise taking the following steps.
- If you do not already have one, introduce a company-wide non-smoking policy. This should include details of your stance on e-cigarettes.
- If you already have a non-smoking policy, this should be amended to include the information on your standpoint relating to e-cigarettes.
- Ensure that it clearly states in the non-smoking policy that an employeeâ??s failure to follow the policy may result in the employee facing disciplinary action.
- If you have decided to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, consider providing a suitable separate area to use e-cigarettes.
- Regardless of your decision, it is advisable to provide employees with information on and links to the support available to those wishing to give up smoking.
Need advice on the drafting of your non-smoking policy? Contact Law for Employers today
A comprehensive non-smoking policy which includes your stance on the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace is vital. This will let your employees know where they stand in relation to the use of e-cigarettes and can prevent any potential disputes.
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