An increasing number of businesses and employers are taking action against the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, despite having no legal grounds to do so.
The question of whether or not to ban e-cigarettes from the workplace poses a number of important questions for employers and could lead to tensions between employees.
The practice of ‘vaping’ is becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion as it becomes a more common alternative to smoking. It is not uncommon to see e-cigarette users light up in a number of public places including restaurants, public transport, cinemas and more but the subject of smoking e-cigarettes in the workplace is perhaps the most common cause for debate.
It is currently illegal to smoke naturally within the workplace (considered a ‘public place’) as a result of the Health Act 2006. E-cigarettes however fall short of the existing Act, as they do not contain tobacco, emit a vapour rather than smoke and therefore are not believed to pose harm to others.
This poses tough choices for employers who are faced with two options. A ban on all smoking would appear as though treating e-cigarette users as though they were tobacco smokers and having them share the same smoking areas and being exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke, which many e-cigarette users are trying to avoid. The other alternative is to let e-cigarette smokers to ‘vape’ at their desks, at the risk of complaints and dissatisfaction from other employees who may feel uncomfortable with the practice and cause tension with both other colleagues and management.
Many employers have already implemented the ban, including a number of county councils and high profile companies, as well as some supermarket and restaurant chains. Currently, it is up to individual employers whether or not to implement this ban, and as an increasing number of businesses go ahead, could we be seeing an increase in e-cigarette employment law cases?