In light of recently published research that the number of regular e-cigarette smokers in the UK is now over two million, employers are advised to formulate their own policy in relation to the practice of “vaping” in the office. Nichola Charvis, a solicitor specialising in employment law at Kidd Rapinet’s Slough office said, “e-cigarettes are not covered by the current legislation on smoking in the office and this creates a real dilemma for employers”.
The anti-tobacco charity Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) has reported that the number of e-cigarette smokers is increasing rapidly and has gone from 700,000 to 2.1 million in the past two years. Furthermore, the research indicates that a third of users are ex-smokers and two thirds are existing smokers. As e cigarettes are not covered by current rules, the majority of employers are taking a “wait and see” attitude rather than deal with it by making and communicating a policy to their staff.
The jury is out on the health implications of e cigarettes but concern has been expressed, for example, by Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford, that e cigarettes are re-normalising smoking (and, indeed, Wales is considering adding the banning of e cigarettes to their current smoking legislation). Health implications aside, allowing vaping in the office could reduce the time that may otherwise be spent having cigarette breaks and may aid staff health by reducing the smoking of tobacco, but equally the vapour may cause irritation and annoyance to other members of staff.
Nichola Charvis comments “Whilst the health benefits or consequences of electronic cigarettes remain uncertain, employers need to err on the side of caution. Where companies to do not create a standard policy, then staff are likely to create their own informal policies with the associated risk of inconsistency and conflict”.
If you would like assistance in relation to the legal aspects of your office policies, call Nichola Charvis at Kidd Rapinet on 01753 532541 for further information.