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Can I Vape at Work?

Posted by Allyson Edwards on Jan 24, 2019 10:06:04 AM
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vaping at work

Every year, smoking kills 48,000 people in the United States and over the course of the past two decades, TV commercials and print advertisements have made it clear of the danger that comes from tobacco products.

Effective marketing has taken smoking from being cool to not so cool. Millennials were the first generation to grow up in the anti-tobacco times and that’s why it should come as no surprise that 83% of the “Me Generation” disapprove of smoking cigarettes. However, Millennials and now, Generation Z, have adopted an alternative method to cigarettes that has become the latest fad.

What is Vaping?

Vaping is a term that refers to the smoking of e-cigarettes, vapes, e-hookahs, vape pens, or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). These battery-operated devices may look like a traditional cigarette, pen, or even a USB drive and usually contain water-based liquids including nicotine, flavorings, or other types of chemicals.

These modern day cigarettes emit an odorless vapor that evaporates within seconds, making it easy to get away with smoking inside public places likes schools, movie theaters, and office buildings.

Vaping vs Cigarettes

Is it time to trade in your lighter and red flame for a neon blue light? Maybe. The idea that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking is a growing argument and the numbers prove it as the e-cigarette industry boomed in 2018 with $3.6 billion in sales while the number of cigarette smokers declined by nearly 6% from 2005 to 2016.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulations for e-cigarettes, just like regular cigarettes. For example, you must be over 18 years old to purchase the smoking devices, cartridges, pouches, pods, or any other accessories. E-cigarettes are also being promoted as a tool to help smokers quit, but this has yet to be approved by the FDA. Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes have only been around for about 11 years now, so there is still much more research that needs to be done to fully understand the health effects that these devices may have on individuals.

Although it may appear that vaping is a healthier option to cigarettes, it all depends on what substance is inside of the vape. In most cases, e-cigarettes contain some type of nicotine, the addicting drug in tobacco. The level of nicotine may be at a lesser level, but it’s important to remember that any amount of nicotine can be harmful for developing babies, children, and young adults.

Another factor to consider is the safety of those in the vicinity of a smoker. The American Lung Association has raised concern for second-hand smoking as emissions from a vape often include nicotine and other harmful chemicals that pose various health risks.

JUUL, the latest vaping trend that greatly appeals to the late Millennials and Generation Z, has become the newest obsession. The JUUL is a relatively affordable vape that can be easily purchased at almost any gas station. It also has cool flavored pods and currently comes off to be one of the safest options on the market. 1 JUUL pod equates to 20 cigarettes, so be careful when you’re hitting the JUUL.

What Can HR Do?

Smoking has been banned in many workplaces for a number of years now, but vaping has created new, unprecedented challenges for HR leaders.

It’s a double edge sword for HR- allowing employees to vape at their work stations can increase efficiency and eliminate time spent wasted on smoke breaks, but there are also potential health hazards and the well-being of non-vaping employees that need to be strongly considered. The odorless vape that quickly disappears into the air may seem harmless, but without concrete evidence on the real effects it has, can HR really sacrifice its employees’ health for a more efficient workforce?

Here are 3 easy steps that HR leaders can take to fight the war on vaping in the workplace:

1. Check State Laws

As we continue to learn more about vaping, states and local governments are starting to create and enforce vaping regulations. Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont have passed laws to ban vaping where smoking is prohibited.

Select counties in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have already passed strict laws prohibiting the smoking of e-cigarettes in the workplace. You can click here to learn more about your state or county’s specific laws.

2. Update Employee Handbook

After conducting thorough research on state and county laws, it’s time to create policies and tackle updating the employee handbook. The simple thing to do may be to simply add vaping under the current smoking policy, but unfortunately, this may not be the best approach.

Vaping is a mechanism used to help smokers quit cigarettes and by forcing an employee to stand in the same designated area as smokers can make quitting the bad habit even more difficult. Furthermore, employees that vape only need a few minutes to take a few hits versus the average cigarette smoker that may take 10-15 minute smoke breaks. It’s always recommended that HR reviews policies with an organization’s legal team as well.

3. Enforce Policies and Designated Vaping Areas

Once the policy has been established, the handbook is updated, and/or HR leaders have designated specific vaping areas, HR should notify all employees and clearly communicate the new policies via the organization’s communication platform or email. HR should be prepared to answer employee concerns and questions. It’s important for all department to enforce the policies to all employees in order to set a fair standard.

As we become more informed on vaping and the second-hand effects, we can expect more counties and states to adapt policies surrounding vaping in the workplace. For now, it’s up to HR to continue to promote wellness in the workplace by creating and enforcing fair policies that benefit the well-being of all of your people.

This blog was written by Ally Edwards, Marketing Communications Manager at PeopleGuru. This post may not be copied or published without PeopleGuru's express written permission.

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