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E-cigs at work – a burning issue for employers

As the debate surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes continues, in the face of a lack of legislation and evidence regarding health consequences.

As the debate surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes continues, in the face of a lack of legislation and evidence regarding health consequences.

Employers must decide how they deal with them on their premises according to workplace equipment supplier Slingsby. E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional tobacco products and more than two million Britons now regularly use them.  The battery-charged devices vaporise a liquid nicotine solution that users inhale to replicate smoking without the use of tobacco. Whilst smoking tobacco products in enclosed public places is illegal under the Health Act 2006, e-cigarettes are not covered by the legislation. Subsequently, in the UK, it is completely legal to use, sell and advertise e-cigarettes which is leaving employers with a big dilemma.

 Slingsby supplies more than 35,000 workplace products including a comprehensive range of smoking shelters and related products, which help organisations across all sectors comply with smoking related legislation.  Slingsby’s Marketing Director, Lee Wright, explains: “We’re continually receiving enquiries from organisations asking for advice about e-cigarettes when they are looking at their smoking provisions but it’s a real grey area. 

 “On the one hand, it is an attractive proposition for employers to support their staff in giving up smoking by allowing the use of e-cigarettes but the wider consequences need to be addressed. Currently there has been little research into the health implications of e-cigarette use or the effects of passive inhalation of the vapour. Employers should also consider whether such devices are in keeping with the professional image of an organisation and if allowing them in the workplace will unsettle non-smoking employees.”

 Lee adds: “Whatever employers decide regarding e-cigarettes, they must set out their position clearly in their HR policies. In most cases it is safest for employers to treat e-cigarettes in the workplace in the same way as normal cigarettes until clear legislation is passed and this means directing e-cigarette users to designated smoking areas.” Several large organisations taking a stand against e-cigarettes include The BBC, Standard Life and JCB which have all recently banned the devices in their buildings.

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