Employers are conflicted about whether to ban e-cigarettes at work, according to Workforce. As more workplaces become smoke-free, many employers are hesitant to endorse anything associated with cigarettes.
Proponents of the devices say allowing employees to use e-cigarettes at work would boost productivity, by cutting out smoking breaks.
Celia Joseph of the law firm Fisher & Phillips in Philadelphia advises employers to check their state and local laws regarding smoke-free workplaces. She notes a number of states are considering legislation to ban e-cigarettes from the workplace. So far only New Jersey has passed such a law.
“There are many legal issues employers will need to consider, and they are all over the place,” Joseph said. “First, they will have to see if they are covered by bans in their city or state, then they will look at their handbooks and revise definitions. The confusion is reflected in company policies. Some will say you can’t hire a nicotine user and that includes e-cigarettes, but some e-cigarettes don’t contain nicotine.”
Thomas Bright of the law firm Ogletree Deakins in Greenville, South Carolina, said employers need to clarify their objectives. “Do you want to prohibit the use of tobacco products, do you want prohibit nicotine, or is it just the smoke you have a problem with?” he said. “These are all very different issues. Until you know what you’re trying to accomplish you don’t know what kind of policy you need.”
Last month, the attorneys general of 41 states asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue regulations for e-cigarettes by the end of October. “Consumers are led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to cigarettes, despite the fact that they are addictive, and there is no regulatory oversight ensuring the safety of the ingredients in e-cigarettes,” they wrote in a letter to the FDA.