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E-cigarettes in the workplace

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vaporizers, are a popular choice for people wanting to stop smoking. They are often seen as a safer alternative to smoking, though the long-term effects are still unknown. But where do you stand when employees want to use electronic cigarettes in your business?

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With the increasing advertising connected with the use of e-cigarettes, employees may be tempted to replace conventional smoking with e-smoking whilst at work or while driving. They may also use it to circumvent the no smoking rules.

The rules on smoking in the workplace

Under the Health Act 2006 and Smoke Free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006, all enclosed public places and work places in the UK have to be smoke free. These rules extend to company cars/vans, pool and hire cars, which are not for the sole use of the driver. Your insurance may also be affected by smoking in the workplace.

You are under no legal obligation to make provisions for smokers but you cannot prevent someone from smoking in their free time, as long as it is not on your premises.

You should have a smoking policy outlined in your terms and conditions of employment (either in the contract of employment or employee handbook). Read more on smoking in the workplace.

Do e-cigarettes count?

Whilst the health effects of e-cigarettes are seen to be less harmful than tobacco smoking, and they are not covered by the regulations mentioned above, it is understandable that you don’t want workers using them in the workplace or taking numerous breaks to 'smoke' outside. As above, you have no legal obligation to make provisions for this.

In order to stop this behaviour and prevent any disputes, you should add to your no smoking policy the fact that it extends to the use of any method, equipment or substance designed to simulate smoking.

We advise that this is done before the use of such products becomes a matter of custom and practice.

Forum members should access our helpline on 0845 130 1722 for advice on amending the terms and conditions of contract. A sample contract of employment template can be downloaded here.