Are employers providing challenges with regards to vaping in the workplace and creating barriers to helping smokers to quit, and stay quit? A recent study  seems to suggest so.
The study showed that 75% of vapers surveyed were not allowed to vape in the workplace and were treated like smokers. This includes being moved into shared designated smoking areas. The study also revealed that 18% of those vapers admitted to these measures tempting them to return to smoking. Furthermore, some of the vapers actually reported discrimination or bullying in the workplace. The study also revealed that 40% of vapers surveyed would be more likely to stay in a job that allowed vaping in the workplace.
As stated by Public Health England  there is a clear distinction, both clinically and legally, between smoking and vaping. There is plenty of evidence that proves passive vapour inhalation is not harmful, such as this study by Igor Burstyn .
UK Health Bodies endorse vaping as a cessation tool
In a UK clinical trial published in 2019 , it was revealed that by using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, smokers were twice as likely to quit. In recent guidance issued by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and The National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) it is strongly recommended that all stop smoking services incorporate vaping into their offering.
If the UK government really want to go “smoke free” by 2030, then employers may need to start embracing the advice given by Public Health England and reconsider their stance on vaping.
“It is never acceptable to require vapers to share the same outdoor space with smokers. Where a designated outdoor smoking area has been provided in a public place or workplace, vapers should be allowed to vape elsewhere”. (Public Health England, 2016) (1).
Being around others who smoke when attempting to quit is what is known as a ‘physical trigger’. Smokefree.gov recommend that it is best to avoid being around people who smoke when trying to quit smoking. How is this possible if smokers and vapers are made to share the same space?
Further considerations regarding vaping in the workplace
Vaping in the workplace and advocacy for smoking cessation support at work is certainly necessary. However, it is also important to consider the needs and comfort of employees who neither vape or smoke. It will be a balancing act for employers to meet the needs of vapers and non-vapers in the workplace. Understandably, it may not be realistic to allow vaping at all desks or workstations. Nevertheless, vapers should at the very least be provided separate designated areas to smokers.
There is also an issue of cloud production to consider. The most common issue encountered with vaping in public spaces is non-vapers objecting to being exposed to large clouds of vapour. Most new vapers begin with simple mouth to lung device, which produces relatively small, discreet amounts of vapour. But what about those that prefer a larger cloud? If employers were to permit vaping in the workplace, then there may be a need to restrict devices allowed to those that produce an acceptable amount of vapour.
Making changes to attitudes regarding vaping at work won’t happen over-night. However, with smoking costing employers an estimated £8.7 billion a year in lost productivity, and more evidence emerging all the time that supports vaping as a healthier alternative and an effective quit aid, employers should consider how they can best support their employees to quit smoking.
. E-cigarette Direct. 2021 ‘Vaping in the workplace study’ <https://www.ecigarettedirect.co.uk/research/vaping-work-study>
. Public Health England 2016 ‘Use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces. Advice to inform evidence-based policy making. <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/768952/PHE-advice-on-use-of-e-cigarettes-in-public-places-and-workplaces.PDF>’
. ‘Peering through the mist: systematic review of what the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tells us about health risks’ Igor Burstyn 2019 <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24406205/>
. ‘A randomised trial of e-cigarettes versus nicotine replacement therapy’. Peter Hajek, PhD, Anna Phillips-Waller, BSc, Dunja Przulj, PhD, Francesca Pesola, PhD, Katie Myers Smith, DPsych, Natalie Bisal, MSc, Jinshuo Li. MPhil, Steve Parrott, MSc, Peter Sasieni, PhD, Lynne Dawkins, PhD, Louise. Ross, Maciej Goniewicz, PhD, PharmD, Qi Wu, MSc, Hayden James McRobbie, PhD. New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1808779 <https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1808779>