- Employee Benefits and Wellbeing
- The rise of e-cigarettes and the workplace – How should you manage employees who ‘vape’?
It’s a growing trend, as shown by ONS figures released today, even some people who have never smoked (only 0.14% mind you) have taken to e-cigarettes. Many current and ex-smokers have taken up the habit too, seeing it as a lower risk alternative to getting their nicotine fix – but what does this mean in the workplace? Do the same rules apply as for normal cigarettes?
Consideration for others in the workplace
As smoke free legislation only covers substances that are burnt, employers have a choice as to whether or not to allow their employees to use e-cigarettes in the workplace. However, you should take into account that some may not like the idea of vaping in their vicinity – especially when the risks of e-cigarettes are still as yet unknown. Setting out designated smoking areas can help employees to avoid this issue.
Not only is there a health concern for staff, but there could also be concerns over fairness. With some e-cigarettes being very similar in look and feel to real cigarettes, it could lead to confusion as to why real tobacco is banned – being clear with your staff as to why this is the case should be part of how you introduce allowances for vaping.
With regards to fairness, if you are going to allow e-cigarette users to take smoke breaks it is worth keeping record of this to ensure that the privilege is not abused – which could make non-smokers feel they are losing out. The usual Company policy stance for smokers is that if they wish to smoke then this must only be done during their official break times and in designated areas, and the same rules can easily be extended to apply to ‘vapers’.
Helping those that are trying to quit
Whilst the risks of e-cigarettes are as yet unknown, the benefits of quitting tobacco are a certainty. Therefore as an employer it could be worth thinking about e-cigarettes and making some accommodation for it in your workplace, not just to accommodate a rising number of ‘vapers’, but to help give a sensible and more sociable alternative to those who still smoke normal cigarettes but would like to quit.
In fact, the ONS study states that over half of e-cigarette users said the main reason they used them was to stop smoking, and one in five said they used them because they felt they were less harmful than cigarettes.
It is down to you and your workforce of course, as if you have only a few smokers or ‘vapers’ – if any – it may be sensible if you’d prefer to ban them outright like ordinary cigarettes. Many companies have done this already, and in fact it’s something that the WHO has recommended many times. But it is always worth, as with any management situation, taking into account all points of view before you make a decision which could cause tension.
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