The increasing number of people using e-cigarettes has led to a number of organisations wondering what their policy should be towards their use at work and if they are harmful to health. There is still some debate and more research needs to be done on this subject.
In June this year a group of physicians, epidemiologists and other experts from 31 countries sent an open letter to the World Health Organisation warning that although e-cigarette vapour has fewer toxic components than regular smoke, more than half a dozen studies have shown it can include ultrafine lung damaging particles plus carcinogens and reproductive toxins, including benzene, lead, nickel, and others.
In August the World Health Organisation released a report that called for regulations to end the use of e-cigarettes in public and workplaces.
Tobacco smoking in enclosed or substantially enclosed workplaces in England is prohibited. However, as e-cigarettes do not use tobacco the legislation does not apply to them. This has not stopped Canada, Denmark and Australia taking steps to ban them in public and workplaces, and other countries are considering doing the same.
So whilst there is no specific legislation in the UK at the moment, there is a question mark over certain health issues with e-cigarettes and employers should have a view on their use.
If you do decide to prevent employees from using e-cigarettes in the workplace consider taking the following steps:
- Amend your existing no-smoking policy to include details of your approach to e-cigarettes such as a provision expressly banning the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, in company vehicles and at any client locations where your employees are working.
- Clearly explain in your policies that failing to adhere to them may result in disciplinary action.
- If you already provide a non-enclosed workplace area for conventional smokers then also consider providing a separate non-enclosed area for employees to use e-cigarettes.