26th March 2013


 Issue No.  2013/05



Electronic Cigarettes in the Workplace

It is well established law that tobacco smoking in the workplace is prohibited and that as a consequence this has resulted in some employees trying to quit smoking.  Many employers response to this has been to support employees in their quest with varying levels of support available. These range from Company sponsored programmes to simply signposting of employees to help such as NHS - www.smokefree.nhs.uk

There are a variety of methods used when seeking to stop smoking, from the very well known tobacco substitutes (patches etc) through to electronic cigarettes.  We have had numerous queries about these with the main question being: “Can the electronic cigarette be used in the workplace?”

Using an e-cigarette is not classified as ‘Smoking’ as nothing is burned.  It is also called ‘Vaping’ and is like a regular nicotine inhaler but gives the added ‘benefit’ to the smoker of the ability to inhale a realistic cigarette tasting, visible vapor.

Legally, an electronic cigarette can be used in the workplace, including work vehicles and offices.  But it is subject to the employer’s rules and depending on the type of occupation, the employer may not approve the use of electronic cigarettes while working or carrying out certain tasks.

Should E-Cigarettes be Allowed?

It is for the employer to decide and when considering, we suggest you include the following factors:

  1. How would it look to colleagues and visitors if someone was visibly using an electronic cigarette whilst at work?  Would it give a bad image if customer facing employees were allowed to be seen using a electronic cigarette (or be seen as ‘smoking’)?
  2. When could they be used?  Authorised breaks only?  Adjust similar rules to those smoking tobacco?
  3. Where could they be used? It might not be appropriate for an employee to use the electronic cigarette at their workstation for the reason given at point 1.  However, if the employee works in a private office or alone in Company vehicles could that be permitted?  Would a rule that it cannot be used in the presence of visitors/colleagues (e.g. during meetings) work for you?
  4. In 2012 a small number of reports in the press suggested that there was some evidence that e-cigarettes were bad for health.  This is commented on within www.nhs.uk/news and in light of those comments it is clear that very little is known with any certainty about the impact of these devices to our health.  In light of this and dependent on the tasks involved, it might not be appropriate for an employee to use electronic cigarettes for safety reasons.  If the employee is working with machinery/chemicals or is required to wear PPE that covers their face (e.g. face mask in dusty environments).  We suggest adopting the same stance as for real cigarettes for the time being and until further guidance becomes clear.

The above are issues that you need to consider in determining what is permissible when advising an employee on whether they can use an electronic cigarette whilst at work.  As things stand, the employer can set the rules on this so for once you have a clear run at things.  Whatever you do decide, it is important to make sure employees are aware of your expectations and rules on this matter.

Where we have produced your Employee Handbook, our direct clients can have this addressed within the ongoing service we provide.  Please contact us if you wish to include this in your Employee Handbook.





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