Vaping at Work

It’s a long time since smokers could smoke in the workplace, and in general that rule has been applied to vaping as well – more by association than because of any research showing second-hand vapor may be hazardous to anyone’s health. Because they do not contain or burn tobacco, vaping cannot technically be considered smoking, which doesn’t mean that it isn’t frequently treated as if it were smoking.

vaping in the workplace

Unless states or municipalities have specifically added vaping to their smoking laws (see our list of states that restrict vaping), employers are free to set their own rules about e-cigarette use in the workplace. There are many factors that an employer should take into account when setting up rules about vaping at work.

Supporting Quitters

Quitting tobacco can be extremely difficult, and if someone chooses to use vaping as an aid in the process, employers should support them and find ways to encourage them in their effort to become non-smokers. Having workplace policies that clearly distinguish between smoking and vaping is a good start, as is looking for an insurance company that will treat vapers who no longer use tobacco as non-smokers.

Health Insurance

Almost every workplace has different health insurance rates for smokers and non-smokers. Problem is, if you vape with nicotine and are tested for smoking, the test will indicate that you are a smoker because what they actually test for is the presence of nicotine.

So despite the fact that e-cigarettes help some smokers quit tobacco, vapers may not be able to get the reduced insurance rate  due them as non-smokers. Employers, this is definitely something to talk to your insurer about (see Vaping, Life Insurance, and Health Insurance).

Where Can I Vape?

There are pros and cons to allowing smoking at your work station, only in a designated area such as a break room, only outdoors, or nowhere on the premises.

If an employee can vape at his or her desk, there’s no need to trek out of the building to the designated smoking area (or perhaps a separate vaping area) to vape. And you don’t have to come back in smelling like you’ve been around smokers. For employers, it means more productive time at work. For vapers, it means avoiding smelling like an ashtray.

If an employee can vape in designated areas within the building, it eliminates the need to bundle up and go out into the winter cold or brave the late summer heat, so once again the employer is receiving more productive time by allowing vaping within the building instead of forcing it out of doors. And once again, vapers don’t have to smell like smokers.

If your company allows smoking outdoors on the premises, the very least you can do is provide vapers with the same option. It’s not ideal, but some employees may object to vapor in their work area – another plus for a designated, closed off indoor area for vaping.

Even if smoking isn’t allowed on the premises, it could still be advantageous to allow vapers to use their e-cigs if only to encourage them in their battle against tobacco cigarettes. In the long run they will benefit not only themselves but you as well with more productive years, less sick days, and reduced health insurance costs – once insurance companies grasp that the presence of nicotine does not mean cigarette use.

Vaping Etiquette

If you are so blessed as to be able to vape in your workspace, by all means be considerate about it. Before you start vaping, ask if anyone nearby might find it objectionable. And no matter how much you love big billowing clouds of vapor, this isn’t the place for sub-ohm vaping. No matter how much your love a particular flavor, understand that coworkers might dislike it, so consider vapor without flavor or with something unlikely to be objectionable.

If someone has a problem with your vaping in the workplace, be considerate and put it away. You may have to find another area to do your vaping.

Employers should help all employees understand that for the most part vaping is a way to get off tobacco, so it is improving the overall health of the workplace and helping to reduce the overall cost of insurance every time another employee kicks the smoking habit.

And if you allow vaping indoors, make sure your employees know that vaping itself has not been shown to be a health hazard, and second-hand vapor is nothing to worry about unless they have significant health issues.

With or Without Government Support

Although the FDA is coming around and starting to see vaping as a helpful tool in quitting tobacco, the situation here in the States isn’t nearly as enlightened as it is in the UK. Public Health England is actively promoting vaping as a tool to reduce tobacco use, and the British government actually provides guidelines on vaping in the workplace!

From their published guidelines:

  • E-cigarette use does not meet the legal or clinical definitions of smoking …  So policies need to be clear on the differences between vaping and smoking.
  • …international peer-reviewed evidence indicates that the risk to the health of bystanders from secondhand e-cigarette vapour is extremely low and insufficient to justify prohibiting e-cigarettes.
  • …because adult smokers use e-cigarettes to quit smoking and stay smokefree, the products can help reduce children’s and young people’s exposure to secondhand smoke and smoking role models. In developing policies for child and youth settings, guarding against potential youth uptake should be balanced with fostering an environment where it is easier for adults not to smoke.
  • …vapers should not be required to use the same space as smokers, as this could undermine their ability to quit and stay smokefree.
  • Maintain and support compliance with smokefree requirements by emphasising a clear distinction between smoking and vaping. Indicate accurately where vaping is permitted or prohibited, and communicate the policy clearly to everyone it affects.

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Further Reading

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