Vaping At the Office: Your Natural Right or Just Bad Policy?

As electronic cigarettes become increasingly popular, it has posed a unique new problem for corporations around the world. How will they handle ecigs in the workplace? So far, 28 states have banned smoking in workplaces, but only three of those states have went on to include e-cigarettes in those bans. For the rest of the nation, it’s up to city leaders and individual employers to determine how to handle this touchy situation.

Nationwide corporations like Wal-Mart, Target, and Starbucks tend to take a staunch anti-vaping approach. Wal-Mart includes ecigarettes in their tobacco bans and they do not allow vaping anywhere in their stores or corporate offices. The same is true for General Electric, Target, and Starbucks.  Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove told Forbes that they treat ecigarettes just like tobacco cigarettes in all policies.

This seems a bit harsh considering that e-cigs are actually nothing like cigarettes. They contain no tobacco, no tar, and emit no smoke. The only real similarity is nicotine. However, Wal-Mart provides employees with free nicotine patches and gums when they want to stop smoking. So why not embrace e-cigs when research reveals that e-cigarettes work just as well for smoking cessation?

Perhaps the worst possible policy on vaping comes from United Parcel Service. All employees at UPS that use cigarettes face an additional $150 surcharge on their monthly insurance premiums. However, switching to vaping doesn’t help. The company still issues this penalty to employees that use tobacco-free ecigs even though the health risks associated with tobacco cigarettes are not linked with vaping. How is that fair? Why should a nonsmoker pay a smoker’s penalty?

Despite hard nose companies like Wal-Mart and UPS, there are a few other corporations that are vaping-friendly. As of January, McDonalds was permitting employees and customers to vape in stores and in corporate offices. Ebsco Spring Company in Oklahoma also allows vaping in the workplace and actually provides employees with free e-cigs if they are willing to give up their old cigarette habit. CEO Cheryl Dooley discovered e-cigs after years of tobacco use. When she found that vaping helped her kick the cigarette habit, she decided to offer the same opportunity to her employees. She bought $100 ecig starter kits and gave them out to around a third of her employees that were cigarette smokers. So far, half of them are now tobacco-free and Dooley hopes more of them will quit smoking in the future.

So which corporation is taking the right approach? Should e-cigs be treated as tobacco products like Wal-Mart insists or does Ebsco Spring Company have it right by encouraging vaping so that employees will quit using tobacco? If big corporations allow vaping in the workplace, will it hurt business in the long run or will it just cause employees to feel more comfortable at work? It’s really a hard call to make. What do you think about ecigs in the workplace? Do you vape at the office?

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Author Focus: Katie Bercham
Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 2 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community... Read Full Profile >