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Your 6 Questions about E-cigs and Vaping in the Workplace

Your 6 Questions about E-cigs and Vaping in the Workplace

We had strong interest with 700+ registrants for our “5 Things Employers Need to Know Now about E-cigarettes” webinar in April 2019.

Our webinar poll showed more than 50% attended because they have employees who vape. We see this issue continue to get more attention from HR leaders and benefit consultants, as they work to understand how to handle vaping in the workplace.

During our webinar, we shared what we know about e-cigarettes, what we’re learning… AND what we don’t know. We talked about:

  • What e-cigarettes are (and aren’t)
  • Effects of e-cigarettes on adults and children
  • Can e-cigarettes serve as a cessation aid?
  • Why e-cigarette users need tailored support to quit
  • Workplace smoking policy issues related to e-cigarettes

We had many great questions during the webinar and couldn’t address them all. Here are 6 more questions that attendees asked with our responses.

With smoking, you also hear about the dangers of secondhand smoke, but is the vapor off of e-cigarettes dangerous too?

The short answer: Yes. Most e-cigarettes emit secondhand aerosol that contains nicotine, ultrafine particles and low levels of toxins known to cause cancer.

Given no FDA testing is applied to e-cigarettes, can other substances, such as THC oil be used in these devices?

During our webinar, we talked about how some e-cigarette devices can be modified by the consumer. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), a primary cannabinoid that occurs naturally in cannabis, and other non-nicotine substances can be used in e-cigarettes.

Do you have any information regarding the oil or other chemicals in vaping aside from nicotine?

E-cigarettes operate by heating a liquid solution to produce an inhalable aerosol. At least 60 chemical compounds are in e-liquids. In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including:

  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
  • Flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin and lead
If we have a smoking section outside, how can we prevent secondhand smoke?

Making your workplace 100% tobacco free is one of the best ways to prevent secondhand smoke from cigarettes and e-cigarettes. With a complete tobacco-free policy, no use of tobacco products is permitted within the facilities or on the property of the employer at any time. Some states have passed laws requiring that the workplace be smoke free or giving employers the right to declare their workplace smoke free.

To understand the smoke-free laws applicable to your organization, we recommend contacting your legal counsel.

How do you address indoor employee concerns about interfacing with employees who return to the workplace following smoking in designated outdoor areas?

There are numerous considerations for addressing this. For starters, in many states, an employer may not discriminate against an employee for using lawful products, including cigarettes. In addition, tobacco dependence can sometimes be a covered disability protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

HOWEVER, while employee smoking may be protected, the resulting odor or residue brought to the workplace is not. It’s important to protect all your employees, so here are some things to consider.

A good first step to addressing this is to have the employees’ direct supervisors talk with them about the odor that results from their smoking. Remind employees that they are free to smoke when they are away from work, but all employees need to be free of disruptive and allergy-inducing odors while in the workplace.

Encourage supervisors to have employees generate ideas of ways to reduce the tobacco smell, such as washing their hands or changing their shirt.

We also recommend that you include language about unacceptable odors in your general appearance or dress code policy such as: “Odors that are disruptive or offensive to others or may exacerbate allergies are unacceptable in the workplace.” This gives supervisors a foundation to frame the conversation about the smoking odor.

Do you have any educational materials for the public that employers can use to educate employees about e-cigs?

We have a series of blogs that can be shared to help educate e-cigarette users and companies about vaping in the workplace:

Why E-cigarette Users Need Smoking Cessation Programs Too

How Coaches Approach Quitting E-cigarettes Differently

3 Things to Know about Workplace Smoking Policies for Vaping

Help Employees Protect Their Kids from E-cigarette Risks

Interested in seeing a demo of tailored support provided through the EX Program to help e-cigarette users and parents of kids who vape? Connect with us and let’s start a conversation.


Megan Jacobs
Megan Jacobs, MPH

Managing Director of Product, Innovations

Megan Jacobs is responsible for the design, delivery, and evaluation of the EX Program. Most recently, Jacobs led the EX Program team responsible for the first evidence-based text messaging program to help e-cigarette users of all ages quit. She formed her expertise in mHealth interventions and public health campaigns with her work at the University of Michigan Health Service, DC Department of Health, and the National Vaccine Program Office. Her public health work over the past 15 years has applied technology to behavior change ranging from adolescent sexual health to vaccinations. Jacobs received her Master of Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and is also a graduate of the University of Michigan.

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