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E-cigarettes, personal vaporizers (PVs), and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are battery operated devices that mimic tobacco smoking and are often used as a replacement for cigarettes. They produce a vapour, including flavoured aromas either with or without nicotine, rather than traditional smoke. Employers should decide whether to allow employees to smoke E-cigarettes, and similar products, in the workplace or ban them as they would ordinary smoking implements.
E-cigarettes fall outside the scope of smoke free legislation as the act of smoking requires a substance to be burnt, so employers can choose whether to allow employees to smoke them at work or not.
Advertising for E-cigarettes focuses on them being substitutes for cigarettes and often they are used as an aid to stop smoking, so employers should carefully consider the implications for their own organisations when deciding what to do about E-cigarettes within their workplace. However employers must also consider the effects on other members of staff as the long term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown, plus having e-cigarette vapours in the workplace may create an unpleasant environment.
Giving up smoking is difficult and employees often need support to succeed, employers can help by signposting them to appropriate help and support. This could either be through an internal occupational health service or through the NHS smoke free service.
Rules and policies
Employers should be clear about what their rules on the use of E-cigarettes at work are. If they already have a policy on smoking or one on drugs and alcohol then they could include a paragraph about E-cigarettes in there.
When introducing new rules, employers should first consult with any recognised union or elected representatives, and they should speak with all employees to make sure they understand what the new rules mean and that they apply to them.
Employers may want to put up signs or notices in the workplace which make it clear where smoking is allowed (if this is the case) and where it is banned. These should include rules for cigarette smokers and rules for E-cigarette smokers.
Smoking is forbidden within workplace premises; however organisations can make certain areas available at work to be smoking areas. They do not have to provide a smoking shelter but if they do it must comply with the legal requirements and further information about this can be found at the links below. Employers should make clear in any rules where employees may or may not smoke either cigarettes or E-cigarettes at work.
Smokers should generally aim to maintain the same amount of break time as colleagues who do not smoke. However employers may also wish to consider setting out rules about smoking breaks, including how many can be taken, how long the break may last and any requirements about covering the work whilst on a break.