It can’t be put off any longer. Employers and building owners are going to have to start figuring out the rules and regulations for the use of e-cigarettes – most commonly known as vaping – in the workplace. The practice is becoming ever more popular. Given the difficulty of kicking the smoking habit, vaping’s highly championed ability to help people ween themselves from tobacco and nicotine will only make it more popular with time. The use of e-cigarettes is already becoming incredibly ubiquitous overall. Those not in the know might not agree that vaping should be allowed however.
Even devout followers of the vaping community and health experts can not seem to find an agreed upon understanding of just how healthy e-cigarettes really are. With all of the uncertainty, it leaves a lot of room open for debate and controversy moving forward as the inevitably regulations are worked out. Since regular smoking is off limits in the UK and even other regions such as the US, it isn’t hard to imagine a lot of people will demand the same of e-cigarettes. The existing laws are going to be quite a sticking point for many anti-vaping advocates.
1 – The Laws
In the UK, the Health Act 2006 put a hard ban on any smoking in enclosed public places. With this in effect, smoking at work has been seen as an unacceptable practice. Of course, some have areas somewhere outside the building that most managers turn a blind eye to, but a lot of strict regulations are in place. There is serious pressure placed upon employers, managers, and the owners of workplace buildings to make it plain as day that smoking is absolutely not allowed there. Notices must be placed all around the building to serve as a quick remember to keep any cigarettes pocketed for later. The policy effects both HR staff, visitors, and customers alike.
While the next logical step in a lot of people’s minds will be to ban e-cigarettes in the same fashion, the current laws do not technically have any effect on vaping. Should an employee decide to use their e-cigarette at their work desk, it would be well within their legal right to do so. The responsibility to determine whether that practice is acceptable or not lies on the management staff and employers for now. Many aspects of the issue must be taken into account before any firm decisions are to be made.
It is still early to determine where the ultimate decision on public vaping will lie, but the wheels are already in motion. Given the uncertain aspects of the overall healthiness of e-cigarettes, world authorities’ reactions to them have been varied. In the US, San Fransisco, California’s Board of Supervisors voted to ban e-cigarettes from public use. The vote was actually completely unanimous, with the general consensus being that they should not be treated any differently to regular cigarettes. On the flip side of that, you have towns in London opening up coffee shops where e-cigarettes and corresponding paraphernalia can be purchased and even used if so desired. The contrast seen here is sure to carry on until more understanding about vaping has become widespread.
Of course, it is also worth noting that the east London coffee shop mentioned above is mostly able to exist at all given the lack of specific categorization for e-cigarettes in the UK at present time. E-cigarettes are not regulated any differently than any other general consumer product. This could very well change very soon however. The EU Tobacco Product Directive will be going through in May of 2016. Any effected member states will likely see a ban on e-cigarettes if they have north of 20 miligrams of nicotine output per every milliliter.
2 – Expert Concerns
As mentioned, even the experts on the matter of e-cigarettes do not have all of the answers. Many of them disagree on just how valid the claims that e-cigarettes are a healthy smoking alternative. There isn’t enough clinical study into them yet, and the long term effects can not be known since their usage is still a relatively new phenomenon. Even with a lot of positive buzz regarding how safe they are, suspicions have been raised among health specialists.
More research has to be done, but some early e-cigarette studies reported that toxins are still present. Though the nicotine levels are not as high as in traditional tobacco cigarettes, any percentage may still have some negative effects with repeated use. These factors may vary from model to model or other elements such as what kind of battery attachments were used, making it hard to pin down any concrete information at the moment. Coming to a clear understanding of the matter will likely take many more years, just as it did with regular cigarettes.
The WHO (which stands for World Health Organization) has been a strong opponent to public e-cigarette smoking. Considering all of the unknown variables at play, they have been incredibly dismissive of the products as legitimate means for quitting smoking. They have also pointed out that the nicotine output and vapor could also be of detrimental effect to others. Just as cigarette smoke is particularly vexing to non-smokers, non-vapers may be bothered by the smoke that is generated by e-cigarettes. As such, the WHO advises against any legislature that allows public usage of e-cigarettes.
3 – Defining A Vaping Policy
The Advisory Conciliation & Arbitration Service published a guide not too long ago that confirms that employers have all of the responsibility when defining how e-cigarettes should be used in the workplace. For the most part, anti-smoking legislature can not technically include vaping. There will be a lot of challenge in figuring out this terms, and different policies will likely be found among different companies. The ongoing study of e-cigarettes will benefit from this greatly however. Any particularly successful policies that are found may well color how the votes for overall public use lean.
The ACAS has put forth a lot of useful suggestions on how workplaces can go about figuring out how they handle e-cigarettes. It is likely not the best idea to allow vaping out in common areas or at work desks. Designated areas may work as an acceptable alternative however. Allowing only short occasional breaks (perhaps one or two per shift) is also suggested. Should any employees decide they want to stray from these rules, penalties can be put in place to make sure that they are more closely adhered to.
Finally, the ACAS suggests that employers can simply add on a paragraph or two about e-cigarettes to the existing rules concerning the use of cigarettes in the building. Even so, they feel vaping should still be treated as its own issue. Some managers may feel they can simply lump vaping in with the other smoking, but the needs of vapers need to be catered to more specifically. After all, a lot of people take up vaping as a means to get away from standard nicotine. There is a long road ahead to get all of this worked out, but it will all get sorted in due time.