E-cigarettes in the Workplace

Smoking in enclosed public and work places has been illegal since July 2007. Since then, there has been a rise in the number of people using nicotine replacement products, in particular e-cigarettes, in order to try and give up tobacco. Currently, there is limited evidence on the effects of using e-cigarettes, or “vaping”.

Public Health England (PHE) has produced guidance for employers and businesses on what to consider when introducing policies regarding vaping in the workplace, although this is slightly at odds with statements issued by the British Medical Association (BMA).

The press release and guidance can be found here.

PHE estimate that there are approximately 2.8 million vapers in the UK and whilst there is limited evidence on the effects of second-hand vapour, they believe the risks are minimal.

PHE have suggested 5 principles that will help guide the creation of a vaping policy that is right for you

  • Make clear the distinction between vaping and smoking.
  • Ensure policies are informed by the evidence on health risks to bystanders.
  • Identify and manage risks of uptake by children and young people.
  • Support smokers to stop smoking and stay smokefree.
  • Support compliance with smokefree law and policies.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, said: “E-cigarettes are still a relatively new product, so it’s understandable that many people and businesses may not know how to deal with them. The evidence so far shows e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco and they have the potential to help people give up a deadly addiction. It’s important the benefits of using them are maximised while reducing any negative impact, and organisations need independent advice…to set out their own policies.”

Whilst anything that helps people stop smoking must be a good thing, the BMA has consistently called for tougher regulation regarding the sale, use and marketing of e-cigarettes.

So, PHE are essentially saying don’t treat vaping like smoking because, from a public health point of view, it is better that people vape than smoke. However, as an employer you may have to take into account client and colleague perception and reaction, where it will be difficult to tell if someone is smoking or vaping – you may decide that this takes precedence over PHE’s guidance.

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