Do I need a policy on e-cigarettes?

We’ve had a number of questions on these recently and the number of employers putting a policy in place has increased.

Employers Solutions can help with a policy but there is no specific guidance and employers are very free to have policies that suit their particular situation.

There are a few matters to consider:

Health risks

The campaign against smoking at work gathered pace once it had been demonstrated that inhaling second hand smoke posed a health risk.

In relation to health and e-cigarettes one might say that the “jury is out”. According to ASH: “Any health risks of second hand exposure topropylene glycol vapour are likely to be limited to irritation of the throat.” That may not convince other employees and the recent increase in the use of e-cigarettes may add to the (emotional) irritation.

Etiquette

This may be an old-fashioned word but the same standards that mean employees do not chew gum (or cut their nails) at work might be applied in smaller working environments. Beyond the micro-business employers might want to enshrine the principle in a policy? Of course if your employees do chew gum there could be resistance.

Should we ban them to the smokers shelter?

Probably best not! This apparently appropriate solution, if indeed you have such a shelter, would be unwise. You would then be exposing your e-smokers to second hand tobacco smoke making them vulnerable to a health risk. You could allow them, or indeed any other employee, to go there voluntarily of course.

Do we need to allow e-smokers breaks?

There is no reason for specifically allowing such breaks you can treat e-smokers exactly the same as your non-smoking employees.

Will the habit vapourise?

I confess to being old enough to remember snuff – not something I found particularly pleasant. With regulations due in 2016 it may be that the use of e-cigarettes will be a similar mystery to future generations. But 2016 is still some way off and for now the habit seems to be increasingly driven by advertising.

Any suggestions?

The following wording offers a strong option:

As the specific aim is to promote a smoke free environment, and because we cannot be sure of the content of electronic cigarettes, our Smoke-free Policy will extend to the use of any electronic cigarette device in the workplace. As with any other tobacco product, this ban will extend to all employees, consultants, contractors, agency workers, customers and visitors. The use of electronic cigarettes will be treated in the same was as any other tobacco product for disciplinary purposes.

If you have previously allowed e-smoking the you should consult with your workforce before implementing your policy.

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