Vaping in the Workplace

By Brittany Willes, Plastics Business

In recent years, the use of e-cigarettes (also known as vaping) has become more popular among adult smokers in the United States. The World Health Organization deemed them safer than traditional cigarettes as most do not work by combusting tobacco. While some states have moved to include e-cigarettes in their indoor smoking regulations, many states have yet to formally address vaping in public spaces. This has led to an interesting debate for employers as to whether to allow vaping in the workplace.

If they are not already, many private employers soon may find themselves weighing the pros and cons of whether or not to implement a formal vaping policy. On one hand, proponents of e-cigarettes are quick to point out that, unlike traditional cigarettes, there are currently no known health risks associated with vaping. As a result, many smokers look to vaping as a stepping stone to quitting smoking entirely. It has also been considered that productivity increases when employees are allowed to vape, eliminating the need for multiple smoke breaks throughout the day. On the other hand, vaping still releases small amounts of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals likely to annoy/upset nonsmoking employees. While vaping is considered less harmful than traditional cigarettes, it is still unclear whether it can be considered “safe” for users and those exposed to secondhand vapors. These are just a few arguments employers need to consider as they decided how to handle employee vaping.

According to Angela Courtwright, attorney for Ice Miller LLP in Columbus, Ohio, “Vaping is a hot topic right now that can cause quite a bit of confusion in the workplace unless a company has a specific policy that addresses the issue. Several states and municipalities have enacted laws that prohibit vaping in public places. As of April 2015, North Dakota, New Jersey and Utah prohibit e-cigarettes in all smoke-free venues, including restaurants, bars, hospitals and gambling facilities. Many municipalities in other states are following suit. Private employers are free to make their own decisions on whether to allow vaping in the private workplace unless they are located in a municipality where it is expressly prohibited. If an employer decides to allow vaping in the workplace, local ordinances should first be reviewed to ensure that e-cigarettes are not prohibited. If an employer wants to ensure that its employees do not vape in the workplace, the employer’s tobacco-free workplace policy should be reviewed to determine whether vaping is addressed. If not, the policy should be revised to expressly prohibit vaping.”