As the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to grow, with an estimated 2.8 million adults in Great Britain using them, employers are faced with the question of how to approach their use in the workplace. Unlike traditional tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes don't fall under the scope of the Heath Act 2006, which bans smoking in enclosed workplaces. This leaves the decision up to employers. In this article, we'll explore the considerations and policies employers should take into account when addressing the use of e-cigarettes or vaping in the workplace.
Since July 2007, smoking traditional cigarettes has been prohibited in enclosed workplaces by the Heath Act 2006. However, this legislation does not cover e-cigarettes due to their smokeless and tobacco-free nature. Consequently, employers have the autonomy to set their own rules regarding the use of e-cigarettes on their premises.
While the medical community is still gathering conclusive evidence on the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, they are generally considered to be a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes. The total annual cost of smoking to society in England, including productivity losses and healthcare expenses, is estimated to be £13.9 billion. Encouraging the use of e-cigarettes may potentially lead to cost savings and improved overall health outcomes for employees.
For employers who choose to allow e-cigarette use in the workplace, there are important considerations to keep in mind:
1. Normalisation of Smoking: Many e-cigarettes closely resemble traditional cigarettes, potentially normalising smoking behaviour. This may convey unintended messages to clients, service users, and visitors.
2. Aroma and Air Quality: E-cigarettes do produce a noticeable scent that some colleagues may find bothersome. Individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma may be particularly affected.
3. Interaction with Children or Young People: It is advisable for employees working with children or young individuals to refrain from vaping in their presence.
For employers who opt to prohibit e-cigarette use in the workplace, they should take into account:
1. Smoking Cessation Support: Some employees may use e-cigarettes as a tool to quit or reduce their smoking habit. Employers should consider providing resources or support for smoking cessation.
2. Nature of the Business: The nature of the business should heavily influence the decision. For instance, a factory may have different considerations than a school or care home.
Employers can establish separate vaping policies or incorporate vaping guidelines into existing smoking policies. Regardless of the approach chosen, it is crucial to have clear, well-communicated rules in place. Involving employees in the decision-making process can foster understanding and compliance with any policies that are implemented.
As employers, it is essential to carefully consider the use of e-cigarettes or vaping in the workplace. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, taking into account legal, health, and policy considerations will enable employers to make informed decisions that align with the nature and values of their business. Clear communication and employee involvement in the decision-making process are key to creating a harmonious and healthy work environment. If you require further guidance, don't hesitate to consult your Employment Law Adviser