Solving Secondhand Vapor in the Workplace—and at Home

Solving Secondhand Vapor in the Workplace—and at Home

Like the advice column Dear Abby, we regularly answer etiquette questions on how to handle tobacco-related issues at work and at home.

Below are delicate questions asked during our “5 Things Employers Need to Know about E-cigarettes” webinar about secondhand vapor, with responses based on my 15+ years of experience in treating tobacco addiction.

Question 1: My spouse is an e-cigarette user. What is a non-aggressive way to ask him to not use the device around our child?

I can appreciate the term “non-aggressive” as an aggressive approach typically does not work well in situations like these. It can put the other person in a defensive mode.

The first thing I’d recommend is to make it clear to your spouse you aren’t asking him to give it up entirely. Next, express that you have concerns about e-cigarette use around your child and explain why.

Unlike cigarette smoke, not everyone is aware of the potential harm secondhand vapors cause other people, especially children. According to the Surgeon General, vaping aerosols can expose children to harmful airborne pollutants that they would not normally encounter.

Children are especially susceptible to the health effects associated with inhaling airborne pollutants because of their developing respiratory systems and lower body weights. Additionally, nicotine is toxic to infants and children at much lower levels than adults, and nicotine exposure can have adverse health effects that include impaired brain and lung development.

In addition to these concerns, many flavors for e-cigarettes smell sweet, like candy or fruit punch. This can appeal to children and add to their risk of ingesting the toxic liquids used with e-cigarettes (called e-liquids). Direct exposure to the e-liquid can be toxic, causing seizures, vomiting and brain injury. Drinking e-liquids can be fatal.

To minimize exposure of e-liquids to others, including your child, I encourage you to remind your spouse to wash his hands after each e-cigarette use.

Question 2: What do you do when the owner of the company is a vape user and isn’t open to changing policy until there is a law in place?

Ideally, the owner of a company would feel responsible for the employees’ work environment. So, if there are concerns with exposure to vaping (and there should be), I’d encourage you to set up a meeting to bring up the following points respectfully.

First, secondhand vapors are harmful to other people, especially populations who are susceptible to health problems. Second, direct exposure to e-liquids used with e-cigarettes can be toxic, as mentioned above. And third, there have been documented cases of e-cigarette devices exploding, causing serious damage to the user. None of these risks should be acceptable risks in a work environment.

To prepare for your meeting with the owner, be sure to brush up on local laws in your area so you are informed. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, for example, does a great job of tracking all this information on its website.

If the owner is unwilling to agree to 100% abstinence, identify the end goal to be no vaping indoors (including work vehicles).

And if there is resistance to hearing these facts from you, encourage a discussion with your healthcare provider or share reliable information on the topic from our Truth Initiative and EX Program sites. Another option is to chat with an EX Coach like me who can help you work through the different questions or comments that might come up.

Eliminating secondhand vapors, legal risks with e-cigarettes

The health risks to others and possible legal risks to employers are very real with regards to e-cigarette use. Education is key at this stage in the game to create change. The reality is many people just aren’t aware of these risks though this is changing as we continue to learn more about e-cigarettes.

Interested in learning details about how the EX Program helps e-cigarette users quit tobacco for good? Visit our Program page. 

For the latest information on how to approach e-cigarettes in the workplace, download 5 Things Employers Need to Know Now about E-cigarettes.


Margaret LaPlante
Margaret LaPlante

EX Coach Lead

Margaret collaborates with the live chat team to ensure protocols are always current and research based. She trains the EX Coaches to get participants the help and medication support they need for a successful quit. Margaret has been delivering tobacco cessation coaching since 2004, helping others get the personalized help they need.

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