Firstly it should be pointed out that there is a distinct difference between vaping and smoking. Current data on vaping shows that there is a minimal risk to public health from second-hand vapour in contrast to the health risks of second-hand smoke. There is also no evidence to suggest that vaping will encourage young people to start smoking, or indeed to encourage them to start vaping.
Although as yet, there is no data on the long-term effects of vaping, it is considered to be considerably less harmful than smoking. As vaping is helping many people to quit smoking, the long-term impact can only be positive on the health system.
Different Environments Need Different Guidelines
That being said, there are many factors to consider when deciding if your organisation should allow vaping. It is important to weigh up the pros and cons of allowing vaping and consider the type of environment you are working in.
For example, people that work with children would be expected to not smoke around them, not even in the schoolyard. So would it be fair to allow the employees who vape, to do so? It could still be considered an unhealthy influence on children, normalising the culture of vaping. Many parents may object to their children being exposed to vaping, and this would need to be taken into consideration.
However, a factory or office environment is entirely different. Anyone on the factory floor, or in the office would be of legal age to be considered an adult. Therefore, allowing your employees to vape would have many benefits.
For example, an employee would need to take fewer breaks for a cigarette if their alternative choice of vaping were allowed at their station. As opposed to going to a designated vaping area. This, in turn, would help productivity as the employees may feel more relaxed knowing that they can vape when needed to reduce cravings.
Cigarettes are obviously flammable and have risks to certain factory settings, whereas vaping poses no risk of fire as there are no naked flames. Another consideration is an environmental impact, with vaping there will be no stubs left lying around, therefore reducing litter.
There are of course other factors involved in deciding whether to allow your employees to vape in your organisation, not least of which being the impact on the other members of your workforce. Other employees who smoke, for example, may feel it is unfair to allow vaping, when they are not allowed to smoke, especially if only during designated break times and off premises. Likewise, employees that neither smoke nor vape may consider it an unhealthy environment to work in if they are surrounded by people vaping at the next desk to them. You would need to check with your workforce before implementing a vaping policy. It may be an idea to suggest a designated vaping area to avoid upset.
Another advantage of allowing vaping in the workplace is that you are actively supporting your employees to become smoke-free. This will inevitably lead to a healthier workforce in general and encourage your employees to take control of their cravings. As such, it is necessary to create an area for vaping that is separate from the smoking area, as sharing a space would undermine their ability to quit smoking.
In order to maximise the number of people switching to vaping, and giving up the more harmful option of smoking, it would be advisable to make it more convenient for employees to vape in the workplace. Whether this is whilst standing at their station, sitting at a desk or in a designated area will be a consideration for your organisation. There is no one size fits all for this policy, but it would appear to be a healthier option all round to encourage employees to quit the habit of smoking by making it easier for them to vape.