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Clearing the Air on e-Cigarettes

By May 12, 2015November 28th, 2018Drugs in the Workplace

Most companies have a policy on smoking in place. Over the years, smoking policies have tended to become more stringent, limiting where and when employees may smoke or banning smoking in the workplace altogether. However, the introduction of e-cigarettes and vape pens or open-air vaporizers has created a need to revisit policy.

The issue is not as black and white as you may think. E-cigarettes and vaporizers are a $2.5B industry that has seen significant growth in usage in recent years. People have turned to these smokeless alternatives to help them quit smoking tobacco, to enjoy the nicotine effect and because “vaping” is less expensive than cigarettes. In some cases, two-pack-a-day smokers have been able to break their habit by using e-cigarettes. From an employer’s perspective, this is good because it reduces future health problems as well as decreases the expenses associated with health insurance and potential claims.

In the April 2015 issue of HR Magazine, there is a feature highlighting the pros and cons to banning e-cigarettes in the workplace. Here’s a summary:

Ban Them

  • E-cigarettes and vaporizers are not proven safer or healthier than cigarettes in long-term research.
  • E-cigarettes still give off an odor that may be offensive to others.
  • We don’t really know yet if e-cigarettes assist in smoking cessation.
  • If you start permitting e-cigarette usage today, it will be more difficult to ban them tomorrow.
  • The heating elements in these new devices may be a fire hazard.

Permit Them

  • E-cigarettes improve the productivity of smokers because there is no need to go outside to use them.
  • E-cigarettes and vaporizers may help users smoke fewer cigarettes and therefore prevent smoking-related health issues, which impact a company’s health care costs.
  • They may improve morale amongst employees who smoke, but aren’t permitted to in the workplace.
  • There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are harmful to others.
  • If companies provide other smoking cessation assistance like patches or lozenges, why not embrace the latest development to do so?

What are the pros and cons to allowing e-cigarettes in your workplace? Here are some policy options I learned at a recent employment law seminar presented by Fisher & Phillips LLC‘s Joseph Shelton:

  • Treat vaping exactly like smoking traditional tobacco products
  • Allow vaping in the workplace
  • Restrict vaping in the workplace, but not as strictly as smoking

Whatever you decide is the right approach for you, put your policy in writing and enforce it consistently. As with all of your HR policies, MarathonHR is here to help create policies that make sense for your business.

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