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Vaping at work and vaping indoors is something of a hot topic right now, thanks to proposals made by PHE. What is your take, should smoking in the workplace be allowed?

Some Context

Earlier this year Public Health England (PHE) released their much-awaited review which stated their findings that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarette smoking. This review has been produced after much research, both by PHE and other verified scientific sources. To say that this announcement made people sit up and take notice would be understatement.

On the back of this report, PHE have put a number of proposals to the government. These include allowing e cigarettes to be registered as medical devices which would allow many to receive a GP prescription in order to successfully quit smoking. Other recommendations included allowing e cigarettes to be sold in hospital shops and for smoking at work being allowed. The latter is what is causing all the talk surrounding vaping at work.

The Current Situation

Currently, unlike smoking, public vaping is not banned under the Go Smoke Free legislation of 2007. Individual 

establishments are allowed to ban vaping in their own place of work, entertainment and so on though. The idea behind allowing vaping at work again is to make it more accessible which will encourage more people to switch from smoking to vaping. Currently vapers at work do the same as smokers, they are relegated outdoors. The reason this galls some vapers is that smoking and vaping are not alike. Unlike passive smoking, breathing in second hand vapour is not at all harmful.

Is Vaping Ok at Work?

From a health perspective, there is no reason why vaping at work shouldn’t be allowed. If PHE have no doubts about the lack of harm we certainly wouldn’t argue. This is more than just health though. This is a social issue. In some countries non-smoking employees are being given extra annual leave days to even up the working time smoking and non-smoking employees actually spend working. This takes into account the extra cigarette breaks that smokers take during work hours.

In addition to this, while passive vaping is not at all harmful to non-vapers, consideration has to be made for those who don’t want a waft of rhubarb and custard vapour across their desk (they may be a mint fan) or to be walking through fog to get to the photocopier. Some vaping etiquette is required. The decision to allow vaping at work is a health one, and one we understand. The way it is implemented however will require some thought. Should vapers be allowed to vape at their desk and in common working/break areas? Will vapers be allowed to take the extra cigarette breaks that smokers sometimes do? Where do that leave non-smoking, no-vaping employees?

When putting a vaping at work plan together individual employers need to work out a policy that is fair across the board, takes into account fair use, consideration, common sense and how to deal with anyone vaping inappropriately i.e when Bob Joe spends all afternoon blowing big vape clouds at Jeff from accounting, just to annoy him. Obviously this is an exaggerated point and unlikely to happen however if vaping at work is going to be a more relaxed thing, a universal policy as well as a business-specific policy needs to make sure that the interests of vapers and non-vapers are being met.

First though, we need parliament to agreed to the PHE’s proposals.

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