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16 Jul 2018
by Colin Hawes

Why employers need to introduce a vaping policy

Public Health England (PHE) wants to secure a tobacco free generation by 2025 and it believes that e-cigarettes – more commonly termed vaping – have a significant role to play. Consequently, employers are being called upon to help develop and deliver the policies and interventions required to support this vision.


The long-term effects of vaping are still unknown and arguments abound that it’s addictive and puts users at risk for addiction to other substances. That said, vaping is now the most popular stop smoking aid in England. And a developing body of evidence shows it can be effective, according to the Department of Health & Social Care in its Tobacco Control Plan for England, published in July 2017. This plan committed PHE to update its evidence report on e-cigarettes and other novel nicotine delivery systems annually until the end of the current Parliament in 2022.

What’s the employer’s responsibility?

Although most employers will have a policy on smoking in place, precious few will have a vaping policy – largely because smoke-free legislation doesn’t apply to e-cigarettes.

PHE is encouraging employers to develop a separate and distinct vaping policy, central to which should be recognition of the potential of e-cigarettes to help reduce tobacco use.

The benefits to both business and society of supporting employees in this regard are significant. Smoking is the nation’s biggest killer. Every year, around 79,000 people in England die from smoking, according to statistics featured in a Business in the Community (BITC) toolkit, Drugs, alcohol and tobacco: a toolkit for employers (May 2018). And for every death caused by smoking, approximately 20 smokers are living with a smoking-related disease: lung cancer, respiratory diseases, heart disease and numerous cancers.

Employees who smoke are 33 per cent more likely to be absent from work than non-smokers. What’s more, evidence shows that stopping smoking can improve mental health.

Produced in association with PHE, the BITC’s toolkit includes checklists for employers on areas of stopping smoking that they should address. It includes clear emphasis on e-cigarette use and directs employers to PHE advice to guide the development of vaping policies, as follows:

Policy development

This will obviously vary according to employer and employee needs but the overriding goal should be to make vaping a convenient, as well as safer, alternative to smoking.

Here are a few points to bear in mind when developing approaches to e-cigarettes that support smoke-free sites, as set out by PHE:

  • Vaping might not represent a health risk to bystanders but it could still be an irritant for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
  • It can be a nuisance or distraction for people nearby so consider some simple etiquette guidelines for vapers, such as minimising the production of visible vapour.
  • Vapers shouldn’t be required to use the same space as smokers. It could undermine their ability to quit smoking and stay smoke-free.
  • Managers should indicate accurately where vaping is permitted and prohibited, and communicate the policy clearly to everyone it affects.

Finally, explore the use of smoking cessation programmes available via Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), either standalone EAPs or those provided as part and parcel of group income protection. The latter may even provide financial support to employers – via initiatives such as wellbeing investment matching – to help their employees access vaping devices or other nicotine replacement therapies as part of a strategic stop smoking initiative.

The author is Colin Hawes, head of group income protection claims and medical underwriting at Generali Employee Benefits UK.

This article was provided by Generali Employee Benefits.

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