Should ‘vapers’ be getting more breaks than smokers?

29 July 2016

To encourage business owners to support smokers to quit, Public Health England have this month published a guideline document advising on the use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces.

The 15-page document gives a guide to policy making and states that, whilst no ‘one-size fits all’ answer exists to the issue, the advice is intended to help organisations develop their own policies which are not too permissive or prohibitive to vaping.

But how do you put a policy in place for your vapers without your current smokers, non-smokers and non-vapers feeling disgruntled?

Considerations suggested in the report include:

  • That it is unacceptable to require vapers to  use the same space as smokers – in theory, if vapers are trying to quit smoking, this could undermine their efforts. In most business environments, this should be easy enough to implement. However, in certain environments, where there are children and young people to consider, it is recommended that vaping is not permitted at all.
  • Allowing vaping in a designated place indoors – the idea is to make vaping more appealing than smoking. But there are other things to consider, including the health risks. People who suffer asthma and other respiratory conditions can be irritated by vapour in the air. As an employer, you must make sure this is carefully monitored. You have a much greater responsibility to those with existing health conditions than you do to smokers and vapers. You also might want to consider putting some general guidelines in place – non vapers may find it distracting to be around vapers and further, you might feel that allowing vaping in the business environment is not appropriate.
  • Allowing more regular or longer breaks for vapers – Evidence shows that smoking a full cigarette every hour or so would satisfy the nicotine levels needed in the blood stream to satisfy a smoker. Vaping, on the other hand, generally provides lower nicotine levels, taking longer to satisfy a desired level in the blood stream, and needing more frequent top-ups. Allowing more vaping time is a good theoretic idea – but are you going to upset your smokers and non-smokers by offering this to vapers in your policies?

Emma McGrath, Citation Employment Law Team Manager says:

“It’s always difficult balancing the needs of vapers, smokers and other members of the workforce. Whilst vapers/smokers may well state that they need breaks in order to satisfy their nicotine requirements, this can lead to resentment from other members of the workforce who feel that they are being granted longer breaks because of this nicotine dependence.

It’s important to keep any such ‘additional’ breaks to a minimum and to ensure that all other ‘traditional’ breaks are counted as an opportunity to satisfy nicotine cravings. You could also consider granting non-smokers short tea-breaks to keep break lengths equal.

Finally, as the health implications of vaping are not yet fully known it would be sensible to have a designated area for vaping away from the work environment and not allow employees to vape at work stations.”

If you would like more information on putting together employee policies or any other aspect of HR or Employment Law, contact us today to find out how we can help.

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