What every business should know E-cigarettes.
2.1 million people in the UK use E-cigarettes. That's more people than read ‘The Daily Mail’.
It means E-cigarette smoking is nearly as popular as being Welsh
Given how popular E-cigarettes are and how polarised the debate is, I had a lot of questions.
I wanted to know:
- Are they safe for my staff?
- Should I ban them for our office?
- Is there any legislation we need to know about?
I did a lot of research to decide what we needed to do for our business . Here is the results of that research to save you the trouble of doing it yourself.
Are e-cigs safe for my staff?
Safer than a cigarette according to ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) :
“Compared with smoking, using an electronic cigarette is safer. . . However, in the absence of a thorough clinical evaluation . . . absolute safety of such products cannot be guaranteed.”
Using a cigarette to get your nicotine hit means that you also inhale a whole range of toxic chemicals.
Chemicals that can cause everything from cancer to heart disease.
UCL researcher, Professor West, holds that if everyone smoking cigarettes switched today:
E-cigarettes could save 54,000
lives in the UK.
This opinion isn’t held by everyone though.
The World Health Organisation are so concerned about the risks that they think they should be banned from public buildings.
So what are the potential risks?
The three potential risks:
1) Long term exposure to Propylene-Glycol vapour - more on what this is, and what the risks are later on.
2) Contaminants - E-cigarette contents aren’t regulated yet. There is worryingly little control over what goes into them.
What on earth is Propylene-Glycol?
The liquid inside E-cigarettes usually contains four ingredients:
3) flavourings (everything from bubblegum to chocolate)
Propylene-Glycol creates the visible “smoke” from an e-cigarette.
It is the same liquid that is used in Smoke Machines. So if you have ever inhaled that strawberry-flavour-fog at your school disco - then you have a pretty good idea what it is like to Vape.
It doesn’t seem to have any short term negative health effects on people, but there is an issue.  We just don’t know what the long term effects will be of inhaling the vapour five or six times a day.
A long-term test on animals living in clouds of Propylene Glycol, showed no harmful effects. But what will happen to people vaping several times a day, for years on end? This is still the biggest open question hanging over e-cigarettes.
Inhaling lead and Cadmium is a bad idea right?
The FDA found trace amounts of toxic and cancer chemicals in E-liquids. There has been evidence of small amounts of toxic metals such as cadmium / nickel / lead. (e-cigs PDF).
This sounds pretty concerning. Until you compare them to conventional cigarettes that is. The amounts of these poisons found in E-cigarettes is thousandths of what is found in conventional cigarettes.
The real issue here is the lack of legislation on what goes into an e-cigarette, but more of that later.
But isn’t Nicotine still really bad for you?
In large amounts Nicotine is a deadly poison. NICE recommends that you avoid nicotine completely, if you can.
In the smaller amounts, delivered by E-cigarettes, it acts as an addictive stimulant. Overdose doesn’t look like it is much of a risk from smoking e-cigarettes:
“A study carried out using electronic cigarette brands available in the UK suggests that there is a low risk of overdose of nicotine”
One surprising risk to children
Not from smoking, but drinking.
Calls to the CDC poison center have increased in the USA as a result of children getting access to vials of e-liquid and drinking them.
It might be worth considering this as part of your risk assessments if you have children visiting your business.
The risks of passive ‘e-smoking'
There is currently no evidence that E-cigarettes should cause a passive smoking effect.
Concentrations of vapour given off by E-cigarettes is low enough that it is unlikely to cause issues. As with the effects of e-cigarette smoking in general, there just haven’t been around long enough to fully understand their impact.
“There is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns . . . Exposures of bystanders are likely to be orders of magnitude less, and thus pose no apparent concern.” 
What about passive inhalation of Nicotine?
“The level of nicotine present in electronic cigarette vapour is about one tenth of that generated by a cigarette”
Will they help my staff give up tobacco?
It certainly looks that way.
Over the last year E-cigarettes have become the most popular nicotine replacement product (overtaking gum, patches etc.) While there aren’t anymore people attempting to quit that this time last year, there are certainly a lot more being successful.
“60% more effective than NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapies, like patches ) bought
over the counter in helping smokers quit.”
A study in the 2011 American Journal Of Preventative Medicine said that after 6 months of e-cigarette use amongst a sample of 222 smokers, 31% had reduced their tobacco use.
Will it encourage non-smokers to start smoking?
There is a major concern that non-smokers will get tempted into smoking.
However in the UK this doesn’t appear to be the case so far.
Almost all of the people who have tried e-cigarettes are smokers or former smokers. In fact in the group of people who have never smoked in their lives, less than 1% have tried e-cigarettes.
There is of course a risk that in the long term E-cigarette advertising will glamourise smoking again, so this needs to be monitored. Particularly as E-cigarette companies seem to be re-using the same techniques that glamourised cigarettes in the first place.
What does current legislation say?
E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco so they aren’t covered by the current UK Smoking Ban . There is currently no legislation covering their use in public places, workplaces or vehicles.
The welsh assembly is however considering a ban that could hit the 100,000 e-cigarette smokers base in Wales. 
How legislation will change in 2016
Currently there is less control over what goes into an e-cig than there is into your average Cornish Pasty. This is set to change in 2016. This remains one of the major concerns about e-cigarettes, that there may be trace ingredients or more nicotine than is advertised in unregulated e-cigarettes.
From 2016 E-cigarette manufacturers will either have to register their products with the EU Tobacco Product Directive or register them as a medical device (like an inhaler). 
Either way it means more control over what goes into an e-cigarette. But no changes to where and when people are allowed to smoke them.
So can we let visitors & staff 'vape' in our offices?
Because they aren’t covered by any legislation, it is really up to you.
What we took into account while we were deciding:
- How non ‘vaping’ employees will feel about people smoking e-cigarettes near to them.
- Staff potentially using e-cigarettes in inappropriate places or times. For example Nurses using them on shift, or staff using them in food preparation areas.
- Safety and risk issues with Nicotine liquid.
-Supporting your staff in giving up smoking / reducing harm through smoking e-cigarettes instead of conventional cigarette smoking.
What are our options as a business?
- Have a ‘vape wherever you want’ policy
- Ban E-cigarettes and only allow smoking in your current smoking areas.
- Create a Designated E-cigarette Only Smoking Area.
The practical case against vape wherever you want
If you have made the decision that, on balance, e-cigarettes are pretty harmless, there might be another element for you to consider.
There will always be times and places where e-cigarettes smoking just isn’t appropriate or can cause disagreements between employees.
It didn’t take me reading many articles on E-cigarettes to see comments from people complaining about people vaping at the desk next to them or feeling outraged at a waiter or a nurse vaping in plain view.
“Dear person smoking their e-cig next to me in this coffee shop, I really hate your e-cigarette"
“I was visiting a friend in hospital and a nurse walked down a corridor vaping on an e-cig before she came on duty. This is why we need regulation: otherwise people have no boundaries and no concern for others, be it patients in hospitals or children in cars.”
You can always write case by case policies that specify when and where e-cigarettes are ok and where they are not. Some businesses might find it simpler to just state once, where e-cigarettes can be used, rather than trying to specify all of the places they can’t be used.
Do we need a separate E-cigarette smoking area?
Giving up smoking is the number one reason for taking up e-cigarette smoking.
If you want to help your staff to quit then making them vape in the smoking shed puts them right back in the path of temptation.
A separate E-cigarette area might allow you to control how and where e-cigarettes get used.
What we decided to do.
We decided to create a separate E-cigarette only smoking area.
We run a factory so there are some places we just wouldn’t want people vaping. So having an e-cigarette smoking area meant that we could make it clear when and where e-cigarettes were ok.
We avoided having E-cigarette smokers lumped back together inhaling tobacco fumes and being tempted back into smoking again.
As a sign company it was pretty straight forward for us to develop some signs for this. Once we had them designed, it made sense to put them on sale for other businesses to use, whatever they decide to do about e-cigarettes.
If these signs don't say exactly what you need them to, we will be happy to customise them. Just give us a ring.
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