Q&A with Mary Snyder
Employers may wish to ban
e-cigarettes from workplace
Q: Why would an employer consider banning e-cigarettes in the workplace?
A: For the same reasons they ban regular cigarettes or other tobacco products. Electronic cigarettes are similar in appearance to regular cigarettes but don't contain tobacco. Instead, there's a heating mechanism inside that turns liquid nicotine into a vapor the smoker inhales. While most agree e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes, many have raised concerns that e-cigarettes emit toxic chemicals into the air and pose a risk both to the smoker and others in the surrounding environment. Many employers implement tobacco-free policies to reduce health care costs and increase productivity among employees. Employers may ban e-cigarettes as part of an overall tobacco-free workplace policy for fairness reasons and for ease of administration. Because e-cigarettes resemble regular cigarettes, particularly from a distance, many employers find banning all types of cigarettes makes enforcing a no-smoking ban easier.
Q: What should employers do before implementing a ban?
A: As with any policy change, it is best to put the policy in writing and then provide notice to employees and others entering the workplace. For indoor workplaces that currently allow lighted cigarettes, employers will need to put a new policy into effect quickly to comply with the Nov. 1 effective date of Oklahoma's new law prohibiting lighted tobacco products in almost all indoor workplaces. These employers may consider banning e-cigarettes and/or other tobacco use as part of the policy.