Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes as they are commonly called – are handheld devices that are powered by a battery. The battery enables the device to vaporize a solution that contains nicotine. The vapor is then ingested through the mouth to the lungs in a manner that replicates smoking. If you have heard the term “vaping,” this is what is being referenced – inhaling flavored vapor. In this case, the “flavor” is nicotine-based.
They Are Nothing New
E-cigarettes have been around since the late 1990s and were first marketed internationally in 2002. There are currently over 250 different brands of e-cigarettes available in the United States with sales slowly creeping up to the $2-billion mark. But what exactly are these devices? According to the US Surgeon General, e-cigs are considered tobacco products. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated in 2013 that e-cigs were safer than traditional cigarettes although some toxins are still transferred into the body through vaping.
What Can An Employer Do?
There is a lot of grey area when it comes to determining how to regulate the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace. Some major retailers have outright banned their use by employees while other big-name companies have allowed vaping in designated smoking areas. The grey area allows employers to essentially carve out their own policies and guidelines regarding e-cigarettes.
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How You Do It
Here are several steps to follow should you choose to regulate the use of e-cigs at your place of business.
1 – Start With Your Current Smoking Policy
Your starting point should be to confirm that your existing smoking policy is aligned with state and federal laws. If it is not, this is the time to update it for consistency.
2 – Check The Wording of the Policy and Insurance Plans
If your smoking policy does not clearly define smoking to include such things as e-cigarettes, you may want to clarify this. Referencing nicotine products does not entirely cover this as not all e-cigs are “flavored” with nicotine.
3 – Add E-Cigarettes To Your No-Tobacco Policy
Essentially, when you include e-cigs in your existing company policy that bans smoking of any kind, you cover the bases. If your company has a mandatory drug testing policy, you may choose to include e-cigarettes and vaping of tobacco and non-tobacco products in it as well.
4 – Understand The Boundaries
It may be tempting to make a policy that completely bans any possible item or device that either creates the illusion or permits smoking of some kind. However, if you do ban everything including e-cigs where are they banned? Will you permit their use in designated smoking areas? Will they be permitted in outdoor locations that meet other state and federal smoking guidelines? Your policy has to have boundaries identifying where smoking can and cannot take place.
5 – Update Monitoring Systems
Can you identify an e-cig from a regular cigarette from a distance? If you permit one regulation for e-cigs and another for traditional cigarettes you may find monitoring of regular smoking difficult. The easy solution is to create a single policy that covers both or permit e-cig use in a different designated location than regular cigarette smoking.
6 – Provide Correct Disposal Material
If your company policy is accepting of e-cigarette smoking, it means that you will now have to provide a disposal system for the spent e-cig batteries. Bear in mind that e-cig batteries are considered electronics.
7 – Provide Advance Notice
Employees should be given no less than three months’ notice that new smoking policies will be going into effect and that they will also be addressing electronic cigarette use. You can give them six or twelve months notice, depending on the scope of the policy changes.
8 – Update Employee Handbooks
If your company issues policy handbooks to employees once you have created your new smoking policy, which will include guidelines related to e-cigs – you will have to ensure that all employee handbooks contain the new smoking policy information.
9 – Introduce A Stop Smoking Program
As part of a health and wellness component, your company can introduce a smoking cessation program to assist and support employees trying to quit smoking. You will have to decide as the program develops whether or not e-cigarettes will be considered as helping or hindering the progress of those employees trying to butt out. Your determination on that point should guide you as to either including e-cig users in the cessation program or not.
What Else Can You Do?
You can’t just make blanket changes to your company policies on smoking in the workplace without educating yourself on the pros and cons of electronic cigarettes. On the “pro” side there is a belief that e-cig use can assist those who are trying to stop smoking. However, there is little evidence to back this up. On the “con” side there are many toxins that can be consumed through vaping. This can confuse the issue of a non-smoking policy that does not include e-cigs.
As part of your education on e-cigarettes, you should also learn more about the ingredients of these handheld devices. The cartridge of “juice” – as it is commonly called – contains a mixture of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and nitrosamines. While most of these contents are commonly found in other household products, nitrosamines are carcinogens. Although there are small amounts of carcinogens in e-cigs, the danger associated with them is largely unknown.
Take Action Now Rather Than Later
No doubt vaping is not a fad about to come to an end very soon. This is why it is essential to address the use of e-cigarettes in company smoking policies now rather than putting it off until there is a workplace issue. Hopefully, we have provided you with some guidance on how to address the situation in your specific workplace setting.
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To help you enforce any of your drug and alcohol policies, contact us today at DrugTestsInBulk to keep your workplace safe for you and your employees.