E-mail, E-commerce, E-marketing… E-cigarettes?

As a result of the growth in popularity of E-cigarettes, personal vaporizers and electronic nicotine delivery systems, rules dealing with the use of ‘real’ cigarettes in the workplace are now inadequate when it comes to regulating all forms of smoking.
But what stance do UK employers need to take? Here, E-cigarettes fall outside the scope of smoke free legislation as the act of smoking requires a substance to be burnt, so employers can choose whether to allow employees to smoke them at work or not. There are numerous factors an employer should consider before deciding whether to permit or forbid the use of E-cigarettes in the workplace.
On the one hand, employees may want the support of their employer if they are using them as an aid to quit smoking. On the other hand, the long term health effects of the use of E-cigarettes are, as yet, unknown and other employees may find the vapour from E-cigarettes to be annoying or unpleasant. In addition, some E-cigarettes have the appearance of real cigarettes and may impact on customer perceptions of the business.
While there is no obligation on employers as to what position they take on the use of E-cigarettes, ACAS has advised that they should have clear rules and policies in place. This may be as simple as including an extra paragraph on E-cigarettes in existing policies on the use of cigarettes or drugs at work.
When introducing new rules, employers should first consult with any recognised union or elected representatives, and they should speak with all employees to make sure they understand what the new rules mean and that they apply to them.
Before the issue of E-cigarettes ignites in the workplace, employers should be clear on their stance.