Archive for May, 2014

Clearing The Air: E-cigarettes In The Workplace

May 16, 2014


No Vaping ImageFor many of the Gen X and Gen Y’s of today’s workforce, smoking in the workplace is something only known from watching an episode of Mad Men, a TV series that takes place during the 1950s and 1960s. In an era where traditional cigarettes tend to make headlines when large retailers, such as CVS, propose to discontinue selling tobacco products, electronic cigarettes (also known as vaporizers) are the new controversy.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery systems by which a battery powered heating element vaporizes a liquid solution, usually containing nicotine, creating water vapor as opposed to smoke. These personal vaporizers started appearing in the marketplace around 2006 and have quickly evolved in recent years. The early models produced small amounts of vapor, but with the increased battery capacity, the newer generations of these devices now produce significant amounts. Unlike tobacco products, e-cigarettes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Due to the lack of federal regulations, manufacturers of these products are not required to list the ingredients used to create the solutions. Most contain a mixture of propylene glycol, glycerin and nitrosamines.

Why all of the controversy?

Proponents of e-cigarettes are quick to point out that the chemicals used in most solutions are found in many products that have been deemed safe by the FDA. For example, propylene glycol and glycerin can be found in such things as toothpaste and asthma inhalers. While nitrosamines are known carcinogens and are linked to liver cancer, they can be found in many household products such as latex gloves. E-cigarette advocates point to the low levels of nitrosamines in personal vaporizers and compare the levels to those omitted by non consumable products. While many agree that using e-cigarettes can be a safer alternative to tobacco use, the void of research does not mean they are actually safe and point out that in the early years of “big tobacco”, many believed that smoking traditional cigarettes were safe and is now known to be a leading cause of lung cancer and emphysema, not only among smokers but to those who have been subjected to secondhand smoke.

What does this mean for the workplace?

While only 28 states and the District of Columbia have bans on smoking in the workplace, most would be hard pressed to find any company that still allows the practice on-site. 150 cities, including Chicago, have banned the use of e-cigarettes in public places such as restaurants, bars and offices requiring smokers of any kind to stand at least 15 feet from entryways of such establishments before lighting up or “vaping.” For those who work in areas not covered by such a ban, the issue may come down to how e-cigarettes are classified and the broad nature of some employee policies. Many believe that regardless of whether they are electronic or traditional, if they contain nicotine they are cigarettes and should be treated as such. Others point out that they are actually smoking cessation products designed to help smokers quit–and they have a point. Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT’s) such as patches and gums, which also contain various levels of nicotine, are not only permitted in the workplace, but some companies reimburse employees for the expense of such products in order to help in the quitting process.

Regardless of one’s personal viewpoint on the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking alternative or NRT, companies have a responsibility to not only treat their employees fairly but also to ensure the safety of their employees while on the job. It is important to consider the well-being of the workforce as a whole when drafting and implementing workplace policies. When considering non smoking policies and the use of e-cigarettes, policies should be clearly constructed and detailed in order to alleviate any confusion. If the company provides any kind of assistance to those employees who are trying to quit using tobacco products with the use of NRT’s, policies regarding their use and expense reimbursements should be detailed and include which products are covered and what is not. When in doubt, it may be worth it to error on the side of caution when deciding on whether or not to allow vaping on company property.

C3 Advisors, LLC
May 15, 2014

C3 Advisors converges the three essential business elements—Process, People and Technology—to help businesses thrive, not just survive, by improving profitability and reducing risk. Our services help our clients improve process optimization, people integration and technology maximization.
Process Optimization focuses on establishing formalized operational functions that facilitate increased productivity, mitigate risk, and provide the foundation for optimal profitability.
People Integration addresses staffing and workforce issues that are critical to the success of continually cost efficient, low risk, and productive processes.
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