Smoking has been banned from most workplaces for a long time, but vaping presents new issues for employers. Employers should consider their state and local laws, company culture, health risks and accommodations when developing their e-cigarette policies.
Electronic cigarettes (which are also called e-cigarettes, e-cigs, vaporizers and electronic nicotine delivery systems) are battery-operated devices that sometimes look like a traditional cigarette, a pen or a USB flash drive but can take on a variety of other forms.
Users puff them to inhale an aerosol that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals—though not all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Use of these devices is commonly called vaping.
Is Vaping Harmful?
E-cigarette use has the potential to benefit some people and harm others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaping might benefit adult smokers who use e-cigarettes as a complete replacement for traditional cigarettes, but The CDC does say that vaping can be harmful to children, pregnant women and adults who have never used nicotine products.
The American Lung Association cautions that vaping may pose secondhand-emissions risks. But more research needs to be done. “While e-cigarettes may be less harmful than regular cigarettes, this does not mean that they are harmless,” according to the National Cancer Institute.
Check State and Local Law
Employers should check there local and state laws on vaping in the work place. Some states—such as Alaska, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont, as well as Washington, D.C.—broadly prohibit vaping in places where smoking is banned. Other states ban vaping in specific places such as child care facilities, state government buildings, schools and enclosed workspaces. Some local municipalities also have enacted bans on e-cigarettes in enclosed workplaces. If a state hasn’t instituted any regulations, as with any workplace policy, employers should make sure they understand their organization’s goals so they can tailor policies and practices.
Set Clear Guidelines
Employers should evaluate their smoking policies to help ensure clarity about the scope of the products covered and what areas of the worksite are covered by any smoking ban. Make sure to set clear policies on whether employees can bring e-cigarettes into certain areas, or if they are completely banned from the property.
If a workplace already has a clean-air policy, but it doesn’t reference e-cigarettes, employees may be confused about whether vaping is covered. Making sure vaping is covered in your policy will make for less confusion on your employees. Additionally, employees should typically be informed of any changes in workplace policies before they take effect.