Employers are starting to implement e-smoking bans in workplaces in line with the current tobacco smoking ban.

In March 2014 Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus extended their respective “no smoking” policies to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes and vapour devices on their busses – employees, as well as customers, are banned from smoking any form of cigarette except in designated areas. Irish Rail also implemented the ban in the recent past and now universities and other institutions and companies are beginning to follow suit by disallowing the use of cigarette substitutes.

There are a few reasons for this –

  1. To avoid ambiguity – from a distance e-cigarettes can appear quite like a regular cigarette.
  2. Because e-cigarettes contain nicotine – nicotine is a highly addictive and harmful drug. Nicotine was formerly used as an insecticide and can increase blood pressure and heart rate in humans.
  3. Because the effects of e-smoking are not yet known – e-cigarettes are a relatively new innovation and consequently the long-term effects on health are unclear.
  4. Because of the vapour omitted – there is uncertainty over the contents and effects of this vapour on the e-cigarette smoker and the people in his or her presence.

cigarette

While there is no legislation currently in place in Ireland disallowing the use of e-cigarettes and similar products in the workplace, more and more employers are beginning to enforce their own internal rules in relation to their use at work.

However, if the rules around e-smoking in the workplace are not covered in the Employee Handbook, the employer could find it difficult to enforce such a policy. The rules surrounding e-cigarettes should be available for all employees – non-e-smokers as well as e-smokers – so there is no confusion over what is/is not allowed.

If an employer is considering revising the company’s policies then it is imperative that he or she ensures that the new rules are clearly communicated to employees through an update of the Employee Handbook (which should contain all HR policies).

At least two employees in The United Kingdom have recently brought cases forward claiming that they were “victimised” by their employers for use of e-cigarettes in the course of their work. It is only a matter of time before we start to see cases trickle through the system in Ireland and so it would serve employers well to prepare for this potentially costly exposure by introducing very clear policies in relation to e-cigarettes as soon as possible.

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