It’s been 10 years since the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places and indoor work places in the UK, and now the thought of someone ‘lighting up’ in a smoking room in your office building seems quite strange. However, whilst the smoking ban is quite straightforward, the relatively new concept of e-cigarettes, or ‘vaping’, is still causing confusion with employers.
Electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine by heating and vaporising a solution containing nicotine, but as nothing is burned during the process there is no harmful by-product such as tar or carbon monoxide. Whilst not entirely risk-free, vaping is considered to be around 95% safer than normal smoking – so should vaping at work be allowed?
Whilst some believe that vaping should be encouraged as a healthier alternative to smoking, others see it as a habit that should be discouraged as it normalises smoking. Whatever your views, it is estimated that around 2.8 million adults are now vaping in the UK and employers should consider including their position on whether they allow vaping on their premises in their HR policy.
Vaping at Work – Can Employees Stay at Their Desks?
E-cigarettes fall outside the scope of existing smoke-free legislation, so it is down to employers to set the rules regarding vaping at work. Organisations may decide to support vaping as growing numbers of people use it as part of a plan to stop or reduce smoking, but your decision will largely be based on the kind of industry and workplace you operate and some things to think about may be:
- If you have a closed in office environment, will the smoke produced create an unpleasant environment for other workers?
- If employees are using vaping as a way to cut down on cigarette smoking, will forcing them to go outside with other “smokers” undermine these efforts?
- If you have a working environment where your employees interact with children, do you have a duty of care to avoid normalising smoking in the children’s presence?
- If you operate an environment where there are flammable chemicals, should you ensure a ban on any transportable products that may create spark or heat or create confusion about whether employees can smoke?
- If you have customer facing employees, how will an employee vaping be perceived by your customers?
- If you have a workforce where smoking is considered the norm, should you encourage vaping to support smoking cessation initiatives?
Whatever you decide, you must be clear with your employees on your position. In many cases, we recommend that the employer’s position on the use of e-cigarettes is added to existing smoking policies or guidance and often we find a ban on e-cigarettes is felt to be acceptable by employees who are already used to a non-smoking working environment. However, if you have a culture where vaping is becoming common place and you don’t want to hinder attempts to stop smoking, we recommend you consult with your employees to discuss the rules around vaping, such as appropriate locations and breaks.
If you are unsure on which approach may be best for your company, then please feel free to call us on 0203 319 1649, and we will be happy to talk it through with you.