What are the pros and cons of allowing e-cigarettes in the workplace?

Author: Stefan H. Black, FordHarrison LLP

The pros of allowing e-cigarettes in the workplace are as follows:

  • E-cigarettes are widely considered to be less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, and may be an effective smoking cessation tool. If this proves to be the case (the research is inconclusive), then allowing vaping in the workplace will:
    • Improve the overall wellness of the employer's workforce;
    • Increase productivity by reducing the need for employees to take smoke breaks during the workday;
    • Reduce the employer's group health insurance premiums;
    • Decrease absenteeism due to smoking-related medical conditions; and
    • Reduce litter associated with tobacco products.
  • Prohibiting e-cigarettes in the workplace may negatively affect employee morale among those who wish to vape while at work.
  • Some studies have found that nicotine, a stimulant, improves employee concentration and productivity.

The cons of allowing e-cigarettes in the workplace include:

  • The health risks associated with e-cigarette vapor are not yet known. Some studies have identified detectable levels of nicotine, carcinogens and other toxic materials in e-cigarette vapor.
  • Many e-cigarettes produce odors that other co-workers and customers may find offensive.
  • Allowing employees to use e-cigarettes may make it more difficult to enforce the incumbent "no smoking" policy.
  • Allowing vaping in the workplace undermines recent efforts to de-normalize smoking.
  • Some co-workers and customers may find it unsettling to see e-cigarettes in the workplace.
  • Allowing vaping in the workplace may encourage some employees to become addicted to nicotine who otherwise would never have smoked traditional cigarettes.
  • The heating element may be a safety hazard, depending on the type of workplace involved.
  • An employer may be required to provide a safe means of disposing of batteries.
  • Some cities and states include e-cigarettes in bans against smoking in public workplaces.