Should you let your employees vape at work?

Many people are swapping tobacco cigarettes for e-cigarettes, with Public Health England estimating that there are around 2.8 million adults using them in Great Britain.

But where does this leave employers? What should be your attitude towards the use of e-cigarettes or vaping in the workplace?

What does the law say?

Since July 2007, the Heath Act 2006 has not permitted smoking in any enclosed workplace. However, e-cigarettes do not fall within the scope of this prohibition as they do not create smoke or burn tobacco. There is no separate law that regulates their use at work. Therefore it is up to employers to decide whether or not employees should be allowed to smoke e-cigarettes at work.

Vaping and its impact on health

It has been estimated that the total annual cost of smoking to society in England, including lost productivity and health and social care costs, is £13.9bn.” Unfortunately, the medical evidence regarding the impact of e-cigarettes on people’s health remains inconclusive, but they are generally considered to be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Policy considerations

If you allow them, you should think about the following:

  • It could “normalise” smoking.
  • Many e-cigarettes can easily be confused with normal cigarettes, so you will need to think about what image or first impression this is giving to your clients, service users or any visitors to the workplace.
  • They do produce a smell, which other colleagues may find a nuisance to be around and some with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, may find particularly irritating.
  • If the employee works with children or young people, it is not recommended for them to vape in front of them.

If you ban them, you also need to consider:

  • People do use e-cigarettes to either help stop or reduce their smoking habit.

Whatever approach you take, one of the most important things to think about is the nature of your business. A factory or manufacturing plant will have different considerations to a school or care home.

Policy

Some companies may have separate smoking and vaping policies and others may include a paragraph about vaping or e-cigarettes as part of their smoking policy. Either way, it’s worth having clear rules in place and communicating these to your employees. It is also useful to get employees involved to get them on board with any rules you do decide to implement.

If you would like to introduce a vaping policy or discuss this matter further, contact your Employment Law Adviser.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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