As e-cigarettes took center stage yesterday when the Food and Drug Administration proposed regulations, it’s still a conundrum as to how employers should handle the issue.
The booming business that’s anticipated to grow to $2 billion this year (yes, we said billion), is typically not banned in the workplace. According to The Wall Street Journal, as of January only three states (New Jersey, Utah and North Dakota) out of 24 that have banned smoking in the office have added e-cigarettes to their policy as well.
Employers may be vague about it, says the piece, in part due to public health experts disagreeing on their e-cigarette views. Should they be looked at a positive tool to help curb cigarette smoking or are e-cigarettes simply a harmful alternative? Some people argue e-cigarettes still emit second-hand smoke that can impact colleagues in the workplace and since this is a relatively new topic, human resources and employers are addressing their own policies surrounding it.
For instance, Exxon Mobile Corp. permits vaping in designated smoking areas whereas CVS Caremark bans its employees from using regular or e-cigarettes on their corporate premises.
Others take a hybrid approach. For instance, Safety Harbour Insurance in Florida allows their workers to puff on e-cigarettes as long as customers aren’t present.
They also consider productivity issues. Their president, Carol Keiling, noticed productivity rose — one former employee was addicted to tobacco cigarettes and spent upwards of an hour each day smoking. She tried to regulate his breaks but he ended up getting laid off in part due to poor productivity.