Vaping has become extremely popular in recent years, particularly among younger generations (18 – 25 years old). Unlike cigarettes which have a natural “end point” once the cigarette has been consumed, vaporisers (commonly referred to as “vapes”) have no natural “end”. As a result of vapes being more readily accessible, their consumption indoors has become an increasing issue, particularly in workplace environments.
The vapour produced from vapes does contain toxins, although many are at lower levels than smoke produced by conventional cigarettes. However, exposure to some of these toxins (including heavy metals) may be greater than in conventional cigarettes. So, whilst these clouds of “candy-smelling” vapour are considered to be less harmful than cigarette smoke, they are not completely harm free.
Health NSW & World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that any level of exposure to the substances produced by vapour, may be harmful and should be avoided. It is also known that passive (or second hand) exposure to the vapour can aggravate existing chronic health conditions such as asthma or COPD.
Under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000, people cannot use e-cigarettes (vaporisers) in smoke-free areas, or any places where smoking is banned. These include all enclosed public places and some outdoor public places that involve close contact with others and children (full details can be viewed here).
Health NSW provides that individual establishments, including workplaces, may develop their own smoke-free policies to ban the use of e-cigarettes within the premises.
This means that private workplaces are not always automatically smoke-free environments and may have to be dealt with separately by way of workplace policies.
Addressing vaping in the workplace
As stated above, employers should address vaping in the workplace in a similar way to smoking. When this is done, the rules on usage of vapes at work should be absolutely clear. If an employer already has existing smoking policies, this should be amended to cover off and include vaping e-cigarettes, so that the same rules apply to both.
It is also important to make clear when and where employees are allowed to use vapes and where smoking (whether conventional cigarettes or vapes) is permitted. This can include having a designated outdoor smoking area, or simply stating that vaping must only be done outside the work building and in accordance with all other legislative requirements in relation to smoking areas.