Electronic Cigs in the Workplace

Electronic cigarettes seem to be all the rage these days. More and more people are turning to them to get a nicotine fix without the social stigma and publish banishment that goes along with smoking traditional cigarettes.

Smoking in workplaces, bars, restaurants, etc. has been banned in many U.S. states and municipalities. It’s understandable that electronic cigs, which are battery charged devices that create odorless, nicotine-filled vapor users breathe into their lungs, are becoming a popular point of contention in workplaces and office spaces in these cities and states.

Unfortunately, e-cigs are relatively new and the potential health impact they have on users and those who breathe in the second-hand vapors are largely unknown. Advocates claim that the vapors are completely harmless in a second-hand capacity, but there hasn’t been enough research to be certain.

Can You Even Allow E-Cigs in the Workplace?

While the kneejerk reaction among many employers, especially those operating businesses in states that have already banned traditional cigarettes in the workplace, is to keep them out, you should think twice before making a definitive decision. 

First, find out if there are laws in your state now or in the works addressing the issue of electronic cigs in the workplace. Many statewide laws and bans were created prior to the availability of e-cigs. As a result they are not addressed in these laws.

Some states, though, have already passed legislation restricting the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. While there is no statewide ban on vaping in public places in the state of California, the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Carlsbad, have passed laws to this effect.

New Jersey has also voted to treat electronic cigs like all tobacco products which prohibits them from being used in indoor work and public places. North Dakota and Utah are the only two other states that currently have statewide bans of e-cigs in the workplace at this time.

Other states and cities are sure to follow these examples. Keep up with the new rulings and legislation in your state so that you’re not caught off unaware.

Reasons to Consider Banning Electronic Cigs

The reasons are many and begin with the fact that little is known about the potential ramifications of first and second hand exposure to these vapors. There are also environmental considerations for the disposal of e-cig cartridges, the annoyance factor for fellow employees, and the fact that, at a distance, it’s difficult to tell the two apart.

Most businesses, especially in states where it is currently illegal to smoke traditional cigarettes in the workplace, has time to police employees to determine if it’s an e-cig or the real thing every single time an employee lights up? Finally, there are business insurance considerations to keep in mind. Do electronic cigarettes pose an insurance risk for your business? What about a liability risk?

Why Think Twice before Banning E-Cigs?

Some industries have very strong workers unions that might pose problems when enacting workplace vaping bans without their approval or consent. Even if it’s a ban they’re likely to agree on, you should at least seek their approval or assent before going forward.

Work councils and existing laws can also prove problematic when trying to initiate workplace polices concerning electronic cigarettes.

Ultimately, there are more questions than answers for most small businesses when it comes to electronic cigs. You’ll have to make a decision based on your own research, the type of business you operate, state and local laws, and employee demand.