Employers have been asking themselves this question since e-cigarettes came on the market: Should we let people use them at work? Finally, a federal agency has provided an answer. 

And that answer is … no.

It came from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.

Better to be safe …

Was there some new study on the health effects of these devices that made NIOSH make this recommendation to employers? No.

In fact, NIOSH admits that there is very limited data on whether or not e-cigarettes are harmful. But, in its opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry – at least until more is known about the health effects of e-cigarettes and other related devices.

It said it’s because of the limited data available on the safety of exposure to e-cigarette emissions that it is advising employers to include these products in indoor smoking bans.

NIOSH just released a set of recommendations for employers in a technical document called a Current Intelligence Bulletin. The details of the bulletin were outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.

No smoke … period

In the bulletin, NIOSH advised that all workplaces implement polices to make indoor facilities completely smoke-free.

In other words, it’s all for bans on:

  • “tobacco smoke,”
  • “airborne emissions from e-cigarettes,” and
  • emissions from “other electronic nicotine delivery systems.”

This is the first NIOSH guidance to include recommendations on e-cigarettes.

Other NIOSH recommendations for employers included in the bulletin:

  • Make sure smoke-free zones encompass all indoor areas, without exception, as well as all areas immediately outside building entrances and air intakes. It also advised that employers remove ashtrays from each of these areas. Taking things one step further, it said that optimally, employers would ban the use of all tobacco products across entire workplace campuses.
  • Provide info on tobacco-related health risks and on the benefits of quitting to all employees.
  • Provide info on publicly available and employer-provided tobacco cessation services.
  • Offer comprehensive tobacco cessation support to workers and their dependents. If possible provide these cessation programs at no cost, or subsidize cessation programs for lower-wage workers to enhance the likelihood of their participation.

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