E-cigarettes are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional tobacco products. Since they work by heating a cartridge filled with nicotine infused liquid, E liquid, and produce vapour rather than smoke, this is why they can legally be used indoors and in public places. However, some companies, notably JD Wetherspoon and Sainsbury’s, have banned e-cigarettes from their premises, and until any law is composed and passed it is purely up to the discretion of the proprietor whether the device can be used on their property.
But how should e-cigarettes be dealt with in the workplace? Smoking as we know it has been banned in public places since July 2007 under the Health Act. The ban includes hand rolled cigarettes, cigars, pipes and shisha, relating to any tobacco product in a lit form which can be smoked. As such, e-cigs do not fall under the ban and more and more employees are using them in their workplaces due to the lack of any official restrictions. Though numerous reports have stated that e-cigs are not harmful to others, how should employers and employees alike respond to their use?
Well, one option is to prohibit their use entirely, effectively meaning they can only be used on breaks and outside the workplace in much the same way as tobacco. Though a bit extreme, it is accepted that some employers may still deem them a ‘drug’ of sorts under their substance abuse policies. However, smoking an e-cigarette will not impair an employee or intoxicate them in the same way alcohol or other substances would. Furthermore, it is likely to reduce the number of breaks that an individual will take, as they will be vaping at their desk rather than having to periodically leave the building. Also, reports and medical professionals have confirmed that the vapour emitted from an e-cig poses no risk to others.
That being said, e-cig users should not presume that because there are no official sanctions in place that they are automatically entitled to use them in the workplace. The majority of people do not smoke and, at best, have a limited understanding of e-cigarettes, which is why they may be uncomfortable with someone exhaling clouds of vapour around them. Ultimately, you have to consider the wishes of your colleagues and managers, because although e-cigs pose a negligible health risk to others, this is not enough to justify their use if others are made uncomfortable by your vaping.
Furthermore, managers and business owners may be concerned about the image of the company; ultimately the act of vaping is still visibly similar to that of smoking, which some customers and clients may find distasteful. Furthermore, as of yet there is no established e-cig etiquette and while some may be un-phased by your e-cig others may consider it rude to vape while having an important conversation.
As mentioned, e-cig usage at work is at the discretion of the management. The root of the problem tends to be a lack of understanding between those who vape and those who see it as being no different from smoking. Be sure to ask your managers permission before using an e-cig at your workplace, but in doing so, try to explain to others that it is not harmful and is very different from your standard cigarette.by