Many UK businesses apply their workplace smoking rules to vapers without giving it a second thought. New framework advice from Public Health England (PHE) asks British employers to rethink their policies covering vaping in the workplace.
According to the PHE, E-cigarettes are used almost exclusively by smokers and ex-smokers and are now the most popular stop-smoking aid in England. Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of health and well-being at PHE said: “The evidence is clear that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes are helping many smokers to quit.”
In July 2016 PHE published a new framework to help businesses and employers create their own policies on the use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces. With over 2.8 million e-cigarette users in the UK, there is a need for appropriate policies in public places and workplaces.
The framework recognises that there is no “one size fits all” solution, as business leaders of different workplaces will have different circumstances to consider. It identifies five principles that help guide the creation of a vaping policy that’s fitting for each organisation, covering the following areas:
1) Make a clear distinction between vaping and smoking:
There is no UK legislation banning vaping in public places. E-cigarettes and vaping can potentially improve public health by helping smokers to quit cigarettes.
2) Ensure policies are based on evidence of harm to bystanders:
“The risk to the health of bystanders from second-hand e-cigarette vapour is extremely low and insufficient to justify prohibiting e-cigarettes.”
3) Identify and manage risks of uptake by children and young people:
E-cigarettes help adult tobacco smokers to quit. In turn, children are exposed to less second-hand smoke and smoking role models.
4) Support smokers to stop smoking and stay smoke free:
“A more enabling approach to vaping may be appropriate to make it an easier choice than smoking.” On a practical level, vapers should not be forced to use the same space as smokers, as this could undermine their ability to quit and stay smoke free.
5) Support compliance with smoke free law and policies:
Employers should support compliance with smoke free requirements by emphasising a clear distinction between smoking and vaping. A clear indication should be set as to where vaping is permitted or prohibited.
PHE’s framework will help businesses create evidence-based policies on e-cigarettes — supporting smokers to quit and stay smoke free, while managing any risks specific to their setting.
Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, George Butterworth, said: “E-cigarettes are still a relatively new product, so it’s understandable that many people and businesses may not know how to deal with them. The evidence so far shows e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco and they have the potential to help people give up a deadly addiction. It’s important the benefit of using them are maximised while reducing any negative impact, and organisations need independent advice from Public Health England to set out their own policies.”
Smoking remains England’s number one killer, causing nearly 78,000 deaths each year. While the long-term effect of e-cigarettes is still unclear, and they are not entirely risk-free, current evidence shows that they are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco and helping smokers to quit.
Businesses need to consider the comfort of all their employees, smokers, non-smokers and vapers, and show consideration when creating their vaping policies.