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24th October 2014

How do you manage electronic cigarettes in your workplace?

Woman smoking with electronic cigaretteWe’ve heard in the news this week that Starbucks has banned electronic cigarettes from its coffee shop chain, and they have been banned by many other major establishments, including the Royal Opera House and Claridge’s Hotel, Mayfair. This is very much against the marketing of electronic cigarettes, whose makers commonly promote that they can be used all over the UK. There are now a staggering 2 million users. So just how many of you or your colleagues are using electronic cigarettes in the workplace?

It’s certainly not unusual to observe individuals puffing away on these peculiar looking devices in the workplace, and whilst it is believed that vaping, as it’s commonly known, is likely to be less harmful than conventional smoking, the facts have not been established as yet. CIPD report

Managing e-cigarettes in the workplace

So how should you manage electronic cigarettes in your workplace?

Ultimately, if it is your business you can decide how the best way to approach the matter, as long as it’s lawful. However, like most things when it comes to dealing with employees, don’t jump in at the deep end! Here are some points to consider which should help avoid any heated debate:

  • Ensure you have a smoke free policy – the smoking ban came into effect in July 2007, so this should already be established.
  • Consult with your employees if you have previously allowed them to use electronic cigarettes - don’t simply ban them.
  • Extend your smoke free policy to the use of any electronic cigarette devices in the workplace.
  • Apply the policy fairly to all staff, visitors and others who come into your business.
  • Don’t ask your employees to use the smoking shelter when they are using electronic cigarettes as you will be exposing them to second hand smoke. Ideally create a separate vaping area.
  • Know what an electronic cigarette looks like. They can be very well-disguised to look like a pen or a memory stick.

Ultimately, the law will be changing in the UK in May 2016; hopefully this will be clear about the factors that need to be considered. There is a view that some electronic devices could be recognised as prescribed medicine, which may cause problems with the ban, but until that is agreed following this advice means that you are unlikely to face any legal challenge.

Anita Manfredi of Employer Solutions – QCS HR Expert Contributor

Topics: Human Resources

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