How to Handle Vaping in the Workplace

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Vaping is the blanket term for the use of e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, e-pipes and e-cigars; battery-powered devices that turn chemicals such as nicotine into a vapor inhaled by the user. Recent years have seen a huge rise in the popularity of vaping, resulting in a challenge for lawmakers and scientists as they try to catch up. As the health effects of vaping on the user and those around them are unknown, regulation in the workplace is advisable.

While most workplaces have a smoking policy in place, vaping is an issue employers are scrambling to address. Many large businesses have simply encompassed vaping under the smoking policy they already have in place. This is a perfectly acceptable solution for small businesses, but you will need to revise the language in your policy for clarity.

Your first step when implementing or changing any workplace policy is to check your state and local ordinances. Vaping laws vary widely across the US, with some states banning e-cigarette use anywhere smoking is banned, others having much more specific limitations on where vaping is prohibited, and some not addressing it at all.

Once you’re sure where you stand legally, think about where vaping fits in with your company culture and what makes sense for your business. Things to bear in mind include the productivity of your workers - smoking and vaping breaks take time out of their work days; your company image if vaping employees are seen by customers; and general workplace health and safety risks.

Note that if your workforce is unionized, you may be required to bargain with the union over vaping restrictions in your workplace.

Your policy should be clear regarding when and where vaping is permitted (or totally banned), and specific as to the products included in the policy. As with any change in policy, ensure that it is well communicated to your employees via written memo and posted notices, and that you give plenty of notice before the change comes into effect. If you can have your legal counsel look over the policy, do so.