20th July 2016 – Employers should consider giving their staff who use e-cigarettes extra breaks and dedicated areas to ‘vape’, according to advice from Public Health England (PHE).
Workers who use e-cigarettes should not be treated in the same way as smokers because it would undermine their resolve to be tobacco-free, the advice says.
Creating vaping policies
The new guide recognises the need for appropriate policies in public places and workplaces to cover the 2.8 million electronic cigarette users in the UK.
It says the framework acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that different considerations would be appropriate for a nursery school and a factory.
However, it sets out 5 principles that will help employers create a suitable vaping policy. These are:
- Make clear the distinction between vaping and smoking
- Ensure policies are informed by the evidence on health risks to bystanders
- Identify and manage risks of uptake by children and young people
- Support smokers to stop smoking and stay smokefree
- Support compliance with smokefree law and policies
The evidence on safety
Using an e-cigarette is thought to be around 95% safer than smoking. Passive intake from vaping is a concern, but there is no published scientific evidence of harm to bystanders from exposure to e-cigarette vapour. The risk of harm is extremely low, with laboratory work suggesting that e-cigarette use in an enclosed space exposes others to nicotine at levels about one tenth of that from a cigarette, but little else.
Fears that the young may take up smoking via the e-cigarette route seem unfounded. Among young people who have never smoked, regular use (at least monthly) is 0.3% or less.
The guidance recognises that although e-cigarette use remains controversial, the consenus from public health experts is that e-cigarettes are significantly safer for users than smoking tobacco.
Breaks and vaping areas
It says employers should be aware that e-cigarette users may need more frequent breaks than smokers because vaping takes longer to top up blood-nicotine levels.
It is never acceptable to require vapers to share the same outdoor space as smokers, it says, and e-cigarette users should have their own dedicated area to smoke.
Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at PHE says in a statement: “Different approaches will be appropriate in different places, but policies should take account of the evidence and clearly distinguish vaping from smoking.”
George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, comments in a statement: “E-cigarettes are still a relatively new product, so it’s understandable that many people and businesses may not know how to deal with them.
“The evidence so far shows e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco and they have the potential to help people give up a deadly addiction.”