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Vaping At Work - New Advice From Health Experts

Vaping At Work - New Advice From Health Experts

9th Oct 2016

If Public Health England and the APPGV (or The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping) have their way, vaping at work could get a legal thumbs up. This further clarifies the difference between smoking and vaping, and it may also help to drop the UK smoking rates.

If vaping is made more accessible, particularly during working hours, there is a good chance that more smokers will give up tobacco cigarettes and move over to e-cigarettes. This is certainly what Public Health England is hoping for. PHE (the government group responsible for the Go Smoke-Free legislation that went live in 2007) released their public review earlier this year. They focused on vaping as an important and valid alternative to tobacco cigarette smoking.

This review centred on vaping and how it is a valid and suitable alternative to smoking that should be encouraged (for smokers looking to quit smoking, not non-smokers). As part of the review, they announced that, based on numerous scientific and medical studies, vaping is at least ninety-five per cent less harmful than cigarette smoking. There is a presumption that the remaining five per cent will be included once vaping studies have been completed over a longer period.

Based on these findings, PHE has put forward recommendations to the government to make vaping more accessible. One of these recommendations includes e-cigarettes being officially recognised as cessation devices so GPs may prescribe them. In addition to this, PHE has advised that making vaping at work easier to access will go even further to help encourage smokers to give up their harmful habit and move to vaping.

The APPGV, or The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, also supports the call for workplace policies highlighting the differences between smoking and vaping, making vaping easier to access at work. As part of this call to action, it is suggested that a separate vaping area should be provided for vapers. They can vape outside unless industry/workplace-specific reasons prohibit this, i.e. for safety reasons.

While vaping is not governed under the Go Smoke-Free legislation of 2007 (the law that makes it illegal to smoke at work, in public buildings and structures and on public transport), there are still restrictions, albeit not legal. Employers can ban vaping and smoking at work, i.e. on work premises. PHE and APPGV have ongoing campaigns that they hope will see this change. While they are not trying to push individuals towards vaping, they are looking to highlight the differences between the two (especially in terms of harm) and make vaping more accessible to support smokers trying their hardest to quit smoking.

The Five Principles of the PHE vaping guidance

With the estimated number of UK e-cigarette users now standing at 2.8 million, clear advice about vaping at work is long overdue. Background research for the new PHE advice on vaping in public places began in 2014. Several stakeholders were involved in discussions, including health experts, academics, commercial organisations and consumer groups.

The 2016 outcome was a simple bullet-point guide for policy-makers. The one-page document, ‘E-cigarettes in public places and workplaces: a 5-point guide to policy making is based on five simple guidelines:

  1. Make a clear distinction between vaping and smoking
  2. Ensure policies are based on evidence of harm to bystanders
  3. Identify and manage risks of uptake by children and young people
  4. Support smokers to stop smoking and stay smokefree
  5. Support compliance with smokefree laws and policies

Whether you’re a vaper with questions about vaping at work, or an employer drafting a vaping policy, it’s worth taking a little time to learn more about these guidelines.

The Shift in Attitudes Towards Vaping at Work

The topic of vaping has sparked significant debate and controversy. With the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes, workplace attitudes towards vaping have undergone a noticeable shift.

Changing Perceptions:

Initially, when vaping emerged as an alternative to traditional smoking, it was met with scepticism and caution in many workplaces. Vaping was often considered a nuisance due to concerns over secondhand exposure to vapour and potential disruption in the work environment. However, as more research has emerged and regulations have been implemented, attitudes towards vaping have evolved.

Health Considerations:

One of the key factors driving the shift in attitudes is a better understanding of the health implications of vaping. While initially marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, studies have raised concerns about the long-term effects of e-cigarette use. As a result, employers and employees have become more aware of the potential health risks, leading to increased restrictions or even complete bans on vaping in the workplace.

Regulatory Measures:

Several countries and local jurisdictions have implemented strict regulations to control the usage of e-cigarettes, similar to those placed on traditional tobacco products. Employees have had to adapt to these new guidelines, leading to a shift in their perceptions of vaping during work hours.

Promoting a Professional Environment:

Employers are increasingly recognising the importance of maintaining a professional work environment. As a result, they have implemented policies that discourage vaping at work to uphold a positive image, cater to non-vaping employees, and ensure overall productivity. Employers aim to create a workspace free from distractions and potential health concerns by discouraging vaping, ultimately fostering a more professional atmosphere.

Alternative Solutions:

Some employers have taken proactive measures to support employees who want to quit vaping or smoking. They have introduced wellness programs, counselling services, and resources to help individuals overcome nicotine addiction. By providing assistance and support, employers contribute to a healthier workplace environment while showing empathy towards their employees' well-being.

The Current Landscape: Vaping Policies in the Workplace

As vaping gains popularity worldwide, workplaces face the challenge of establishing policies and rules regarding using e-cigarettes and vaping devices on their premises.

Clear Policies and Communication:

Many organisations have recognised the need to address vaping in their workplace policies. Employers implement explicit guidelines outlining their vaping stance to ensure clarity and consistency. These include definitions of vaping devices, rules on where vaping is permitted or prohibited, and potential disciplinary actions for non-compliance. Employers also emphasise the importance of effective communication to ensure all employees know the vaping policies in place.

Designated Vaping Areas:

Some workplaces have designated areas where vaping is permitted to accommodate employees who vape. These areas are often designed to be well-ventilated, separate from non-vaping areas, and comply with local regulations and health standards. The aim is to minimise the impact of vaping on non-vaping employees while providing a space for those who choose to vape.

Restrictions and Prohibitions:

Many workplaces have implemented restrictions or outright prohibitions on vaping to maintain a smoke-free and healthy environment. These policies often align with existing regulations on tobacco use and may extend to vaping. Employers may justify these restrictions by citing potential health risks associated with second-hand vapour or the desire to uphold a professional image.

Legal Considerations:

Vaping policies in the workplace must navigate various legal considerations. Employers must be aware of laws, such as local smoking regulations and workplace health and safety legislation, that may influence their vaping policies. Organisations must remain compliant with these laws while creating their internal policies.

Employee Education and Support:

Recognising the importance of employee well-being, some employers provide education and support programs for employees who wish to quit vaping. These programs may include access to resources, counselling services, or even partnerships with smoking cessation programs. By promoting a healthy workplace and supporting employees in their efforts to quit vaping, organisations demonstrate their commitment to employee well-being.

Understanding the Potential Benefits of Vaping at Work

Vaping, the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapour produced by electronic cigarettes or similar devices, has gained significant popularity in recent years. While ongoing debates surround the health implications of vaping, some employers are considering allowing vaping at work.

Smoking cessation tool:

Many individuals turn to vaping as an alternative to traditional tobacco smoking. Employers can provide a supportive environment for employees trying to quit smoking. Vaping may assist in reducing tobacco use, which can lead to improved health outcomes and increased productivity.

Increased employee satisfaction:

Permitting vaping at work can contribute to increased employee satisfaction and morale. Employees who vape may feel more comfortable and less restricted in their work environment, positively impacting their overall job satisfaction. This, in turn, can enhance employee retention rates and reduce turnover, saving the company time and resources associated with recruitment and training.

Improved focus and stress reduction:

Certain e-liquids used in vaping devices contain nicotine, which can stimulate the brain. Moderate amounts of nicotine have been reported to enhance cognitive functions, including focus, concentration, and alertness. Allowing vaping at work might enable employees to manage their nicotine cravings more effectively, potentially improving productivity.

Stress-relieving activity can help employees cope with work-related pressure and reduce stress levels.

Enhanced workplace culture:

Introducing a vaping-friendly policy can contribute to a more inclusive and accepting workplace culture. By recognising the preferences and choices of employees who vape, employers demonstrate a willingness to accommodate diverse needs. This can foster a sense of inclusivity and respect among the workforce, promoting a positive work environment.

External image and marketability:

Adopting a forward-thinking approach by allowing vaping at work can enhance a company's external image. Demonstrating flexibility and adaptability to societal trends may attract potential employees who value a progressive work environment. Moreover, a vaping-friendly policy can appeal to customers and clients who support vaping, potentially broadening the company's market reach.

Considerations for Employers: Weighing the Pros and Cons of Vaping at Work

As the popularity of vaping continues to rise, employers face the challenge of addressing the implications of vaping in the workplace. While vaping is often considered a healthier alternative to smoking, it raises many considerations for employers. In this section, we will explore the pros and cons of vaping at work, helping employers make informed decisions on navigating this issue effectively.

Pros of Allowing Vaping at Work

Employee Satisfaction and Retention: Allowing vaping at work can improve employee satisfaction and retention rates. Vaping-friendly policies attract individuals looking for a more relaxed environment and reduce the temptation for employees to leave the workplace for vaping breaks.

Increased Productivity: Some proponents argue that vaping can enhance productivity by providing stress relief. Employees allowed to vape at their workstations might experience reduced stress levels, improving concentration and focus.

Health Benefits: Secondhand vapour is less harmful than traditional cigarette smoke. Allowing vaping at work may contribute to a healthier environment for non-vaping employees who might otherwise be exposed to harmful secondhand smoke.

Cost Savings: Promoting vaping as an alternative to smoking can reduce healthcare costs associated with traditional tobacco use. Vaping is often perceived as a less harmful habit and may result in fewer employee smoking-related health issues.

Cons of Allowing Vaping at Work

Health and Safety Concerns: Although vaping is generally considered less harmful than smoking, there is ongoing debate regarding its long-term health effects. The potential risks of vaping and secondhand vapour exposure are not fully understood. Employers must consider the health and safety implications for employees and the workplace.

Perception and Image: Allowing vaping at work might create a negative image for the company, particularly if the organisation prioritises a professional or health-conscious atmosphere. Some customers, clients, or business partners may have strong opinions against vaping, which can impact the company's reputation.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance: The legal landscape surrounding vaping is evolving, and employers must stay current with local, state, and national regulations. Some jurisdictions may have specific laws restricting workplace vaping, and failure to comply can result in legal consequences and potential liabilities.

Maintenance and Distractions: Permitting vaping at work requires additional considerations for maintenance and upkeep. Regular cleaning, proper disposal of vaping-related waste, and managing potential distractions caused by vaping activities are important factors to consider.

Implementing a Vaping Policy: Best Practices for Employers

As an employer, it is essential to establish clear guidelines regarding vaping in the workplace to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all employees.

Define the Scope of the Policy:

Begin by clearly defining the scope of your vaping policy. Specify whether it applies to all indoor and outdoor areas of the workplace, company-owned vehicles, or during work-related events. Clearly stating where vaping is allowed or prohibited will help employees understand the boundaries and expectations.

Educate Employees:

Educate your employees about the potential health risks associated with vaping. Provide information on the harmful effects of secondhand vapour and the addictive nature of nicotine. Consider organising awareness sessions or distributing informational materials to ensure employees are well-informed.

Prohibit Vaping in Designated Areas:

Establish specific areas where vaping is allowed, if applicable. These designated areas should be well-ventilated and away from common areas to minimise the impact on non-vaping employees. Consider creating outdoor spaces or designated smoking areas for vaping to avoid conflicts.

Update Smoking Policy:

Review your existing smoking policy and include vaping within its scope. Clearly state that vaping is subject to the same regulations as smoking, including designated smoking areas and restrictions on smoking breaks. This will help avoid confusion and ensure consistency in enforcing the policy.

Implement a Disciplinary Policy:

Develop a clear disciplinary policy outlining the consequences of violating the vaping policy. Specify the progressive steps of disciplinary action, including verbal warnings, written warnings, and termination if necessary. Consistent policy enforcement will reinforce its importance and create a healthier work environment.

Communicate and Train:

Effective communication is vital for successful policy implementation. Communicate the vaping policy to all employees through various channels, such as email, posters, or employee handbooks. Conduct training sessions to ensure employees understand the policy and the reasons behind its implementation.

Provide Support for Smoking Cessation:

Recognise that some employees may be struggling with nicotine addiction. Offer resources and support for those wishing to quit smoking or vaping. Partner with healthcare providers or EAPs to provide counselling or nicotine replacement therapy options. Supporting employees in their efforts to quit will contribute to a healthier workforce.

Monitor and Evaluate:

Regularly monitor the effectiveness of your vaping policy and make necessary adjustments as needed. Encourage feedback from employees to identify areas of improvement. Stay informed about any changes in local or national regulations related to vaping to ensure your policy remains current.

The Future of Vaping at Work and Workplace Wellness Initiatives

As society evolves, so do our habits and preferences. One such area that has seen a significant transformation in recent years is the practice of vaping. Initially introduced as an alternative to traditional smoking, vaping has gained popularity among many individuals seeking a less harmful alternative. As workplace wellness initiatives gain traction, exploring the likely future of vaping and its impact on employee well-being becomes imperative.

The Current Landscape

Many organisations have adopted strict policies prohibiting vaping in the workplace. These policies are often implemented due to concerns about secondhand exposure to aerosolised substances and the potential health risks associated with vaping. However, as vaping continues to gain acceptance and recognition as a smoking cessation aid, attitudes towards it are beginning to shift.

Emerging Trends and Potential Future Scenarios

Dedicated Vaping Areas:

Some forward-thinking companies might consider designating specific areas within the workplace where vaping is permitted. These areas could be well-ventilated spaces with appropriate air filtration systems, ensuring minimal exposure to non-vaping employees.

Customisable Workplace Policies:

As workplace wellness initiatives become more nuanced, organisations may adopt flexible policies that accommodate the needs and preferences of individual employees. This could involve allowing vaping in designated private areas or during specific break times, as long as it does not disturb others or violate local regulations.

Education and Awareness:

To promote a healthier work environment, organisations may invest in educating employees about the risks and benefits of vaping. This could include providing access to reliable information, smoking cessation programs, and support resources for those interested in transitioning away from vaping.

Technology Integration:

The future of vaping could also see the integration of innovative technologies. For instance, smart vaping devices with Bluetooth connectivity could enable real-time usage monitoring, nicotine intake, and associated health metrics. Such data could be utilised by employers and employees alike to track and manage their vaping habits responsibly.

The Difference between Vaping and Smoking

Point 1 emphasises the fact that vaping is very different to smoking tobacco. International research has found that the health risks from vaping are extremely low compared to tobacco smoke.

This part of the PHE guidance reminds policymakers that no UK legislation prohibits vaping in public places. It also reveals that e-cigarettes and vaping can improve public health by helping smokers quit cigarettes.

Inhaling second-hand e-cigarette vapour

Most vapers already know that the clouds exhaled from e-cigarettes and vaping devices are mostly water vapour. The vapour also contains tiny quantities of glycerine, flavouring and nicotine. Nicotine is known to be addictive, but it doesn’t cause cancer. Tobacco cigarettes have been found to contain up to 69 cancer-forming chemicals.

Point 2 of the PHE e-cigarette guidance reports international evidence: “The risk to the health of bystanders from secondhand e-cigarette vapour is extremely low and insufficient to justify prohibiting e-cigarettes”. Public Health England urges employers to base their vaping risk assessments on the available evidence.

Naturally, vape equipment users would be wise to gain more support by vaping responsibly in public places.

E-cigarettes – the risks to those under 18’s

With thousands of eye-catching Internet images of cloud chasers blowing enormous vapour plumes, kids and teens often see vaping as a cool activity. Due to the addictive properties of the nicotine added to vaping e-liquid, it’s illegal to sell vaping products to under 18’s in the UK. Advertising is also strictly controlled.

This makes perfect sense, but point 3 of the PHE guidelines remind policymakers that e-cigarettes help adult tobacco smokers quit. In turn, kids are exposed to less second-hand tobacco smoke. It also means that kids and teens will have fewer tobacco-smoking role models.

Health experts at PHE recommend that employers and policymakers try to balance children’s health protection and helping adults “stay smoke-free”.

Vapers can help by avoiding vaping with children and impressionable teens.

Employers – help your workers to Go-Smoke-Free

“Support smokers to stop smoking and stay smoke-free.”

That’s the advice from PHE in guidance point No. 4. Official statistics from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that Great Britain had around 2.2 million e-cigarette users early in 2016. Incredibly, that’s about 4% of the total population!

In this bullet point, PHE asks employers to consider making it easier to vape at work. Practically, this could mean not forcing vaping employees to share a communal smoking space with cigarette smokers.

Many vapers would appreciate not being exposed to the cancer-causing smoke they were trying to give up!

Keep the peace with clear vaping and smoke-free policies.

For many non-vapers, the differences between smoking and vaping still need to be clarified. With the final bullet point in their vaping guidance, PHE urges employers and policymakers to comply with the tobacco-related ‘smoke-free’ law. As this law doesn’t apply to vaping, each organisation must develop its specific vaping policy and rules.

As well as laying down and enforcing the rules, it’s also essential to clearly understand the rules of vapers and cigarette smokers in each organisation.

Vapers and smokers will all benefit from knowing exactly if, when and where they are allowed to vape or smoke around their workplace. A more relaxed attitude to vaping may encourage more cigarette smokers to switch to a smoke-free alternative.

Help, advice and information

Learn more about vaping devices and the effects of nicotine from other blog posts on our GoSmokeFree blog pages.

If you are a cigarette smoker wishing to use a basic e-cigarette as an aid to quit smoking, click this link to our range of simple, low-cost e-cigarette starter kits.

Public Health England has bundled their research, report and advice documents on a single web page. These clear, simple guidelines help to make it easier to draft an effective vaping policy for your organisation.

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