The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has increased in popularity over recent years. Where does this leave employers and what approach should they take to vaping at work rules?
By making yourself aware of the guidelines in place, employers can communicate a clear policy to all employees.
What the law says
Smoking tobacco products in an enclosed space was outlawed in the summer 2007 (via the Health Act 2006), a ruling which led to a ban on smoking in offices, schools, and any other place that fell under the umbrella of this law.
However, the situation for vaping is different.
The use of e-cigarettes is not (currently) covered by this law, as they don’t burn any ingredients like a traditional cigarette does, and as the name suggests, vapes produce vapour, not smoke.
There have been recently numerous reports however on the potential (and largely as yet unknown) risks of vaping. Recent studies have shown that vaping is not as innocuous as people were at first led to believe. Further research is being carried out but it may be the case that it will be a while until we have a full picture.
In addition, concerns over passively inhaling the vapour that vaping creates have not yet been researched but this is no doubt only a matter of time.
Employers have a general duty of health and safety to all employees equally. Whilst it is largely accepted that vapes are a useful tool to aid smokers to stop smoking, this should be balanced out against all staff. For instance, some employees may suffer from conditions such as asthma which would make even passively inhaling vapour riskier.
Bearing the above in mind, a clear policy to employees will stand employers in good stead and provide clarity for all.
Employers vaping policy
An employer may allow employees who vape, to do so indoors. If that is the decision, a designated room may be the answer.
However, this is not necessarily advisable and all health and safety issues should be considered so that all employees are protected. To avoid any future problems, it is undoubtedly safer to ask employees to vape outside in a designated area where possible. This may indirectly aid those whose intention with vaping is to ultimately “stop smoking”.
Importantly, vaping is still unlawful for anyone under the age of 18 and employers should be supporting this by ensuring vaping does not take place anywhere near where children or young teens are present.
Ultimately, it is imperative that any rules are considered in light of the individual workplace and then communicated clearly to all staff.
Vaping etiquette at work
Employees should always be encouraged to vape considerately. For instance, vapers could use a discreet vape device with minimal vapour and to save vaping for designated break times only – similar to smokers. Wherever they vape, vapers should be aware of their surroundings.
Vaping at work can be a tricky road to navigate, especially when many people are still unfamiliar with what an e-cigarette actually is, or unsure about how it works.
For advice on specific issues such as vaping at work, please contact Ilinca Mardarescu (Head of Employment) at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01753 486777