August 5, 2014
Electronic Cigarettes, or “e-cigs”, are dramatically increasing in popularity. They are often advertised as an alternative to standard cigarettes with the bonus that they can be used anywhere – as they do not produce harmful second-hand smoke like a regular cigarette. Some products have an odorless vapor, and all of the e-cigarette manufacturers claim that the second-hand vapor is harmless. Whatever the case, states are in various stages of establishing rules and many bills simply equate “vaping” with “smoking.”
As states consider new smoking restrictions, most states appear to include the use of e-cigs within their definition of “smoking.” In New Jersey, for example, “smoking” means
…the burning of, inhaling from, exhaling the smoke from, or the possession of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco or any other matter that can be smoked, or the inhaling or exhaling of smoke or vapor from an electronic smoking device.
Similarly, “smoking” in Hawaii (2013 HI HB 2321), Kentucky (2014 KY HB 173), Delaware (2013 DE HB 309), Mississippi (2014 MS HB 739), and Maryland (2014 MD HB 1291) might include use of e-cigs devices. Other states haven’t changed definitions but simply propose amending existing statutes to include restrictions on smoking and e-cigs. South Carolina, for example proposes to add e-cigs to its smoking ban (2013 SC HB 1291).
Alabama appears to be the exception. An Alabama bill would impose a 15 foot barrier between smokers and the workplace but “smoking” would explicitly not include the use of e-cigarettes. 2012 AL SB 383:
SMOKE or SMOKING. The act of inhaling, exhaling, burning, carrying, holding, or possessing any lighted or heated tobacco product including, but not limited to, cigars, cigarettes, or pipes, or any other lighted or heated smoking equipment or device containing any weed, plant, or other combustible substance. The term does not include the use of an e-cigarette
Vaping in the Workplace
Proponents of electronic cigarettes believe that they should be allowed to “vape” in the workplace because they do not adversely affect co-workers like a tobacco cigarette. The time it takes to enjoy an “electronic smoke” is no longer that it takes to eat a snack. While electronic cigarettes may not be healthy for the user, neither are the items located in the vending machines in the company’s break room. In addition, they point out that electronic cigarettes cause less harm to the user when compared to a standard cigarette.
Opponents of electronic cigarettes are not yet ready to accept that there are no dangers in the vapors released by the device. They point to the long history of dishonesty displayed by the cigarette industry, and believe the best course of action is to study and understand what are the true affects of e-cigarettes and the vapor they produce. In addition, if these devices were allowed into workplace, this may affect overall productivity of the company by increased “smoke breaks.”
For now employers are free to determine where they stand on this issue; however, few employers have opened their doors to allow in electronic cigarettes.