A recent attention grabbing issue for employers is the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace. For those of you who are not aware, electronic cigarettes are battery powered vaporizers that appear similar to regular cigarettes and contain amounts of nicotine that produce similar effects on the body that cigarette tobacco inhalation provides. While e-cigarettes may not produce the smoke that cigarettes do, it does produce an aerosol type spray that appears similar to smoke. This aerosol also known as vapor is now available in different flavors or perhaps fragrances.
Under federal law, e-cigarettes are not considered a drug or a medical device and only some states prohibit the use of these products in some public places, but many workplace policies do not address the newly increasing use of e-cigarettes. While most employers have policies in place that address the issue of smoking tobacco or related products in the workplace, these policies do not extend to the use of e-cigarettes as e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco.
While it is not fully clear as to what health implications may be associated with the use of e-cigarettes or the vapor that is expelled, the fragrance enhanced vapor has been known to be bothersome to some individuals who are sensitive to fragrant smells or that have respiratory concerns. Like the use of electronic devices, social media or other actives that may distract an employee from doing their job, employers are placing restrictions of the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace.
In the absence of legal restrictions on the issue, some employers may consider broadening and updating current workplace policies to include the prohibited use of e-cigarettes in the workplace as the issue seems to be driving more controversy.
Haley Deeb, Human Resource Intern for HR Synergy, LLC