There’s no federal law governing smoking in the workplace, but most states regulate smoking to some degree. With the advent of vaping, there are even more concerns to worry about, depending on the type of workplace. This is why it’s important for workplace safety to address concerns about smoking and vaping on the job.
Whether you smoke or not, you’re fully aware of the health concerns of smoking.
The reason most states disallow smoking inside buildings or near entrances and exits is because of the risks associated with second-hand smoke. This smoke is breathed in by everyone in the vicinity, and is just as dangerous as actually smoking.
Secondhand smoke isn’t filtered, so tars and other chemicals are absorbed directly into the lungs. Exposure to secondhand smoke at work puts the entire workforce at risk and may result in an increase in health insurance premiums.
On top of this, smoking on some jobs may be fatal. Chemical labs, manufacturing plants, oil rigs, and other workplaces which may contain combustible or flammable materials are firetraps, and the ignition of a match or lighter (along with burning embers in cigarette, cigar, or pipe ash) could create a fire hazard.
If you work at a job where fire-resistant clothing is necessary, it’s best not to carry a source of fuel on your body in the form of a lighter, as it could explode when exposed to high heat, even within FR garments.
Heating the Debate
This is also true of vape devices, though more because they’re electronic and contain batteries that may explode or increase a worker’s risk of electrical arc. As such, vaping equipment shouldn’t be used in high-fire-hazard areas.
It’s important to note that vaping doesn’t contain the same type of secondhand smoke. Vaping is slang for evaporating, which means a liquid is heated to the point of evaporation instead of combustion. The devices used don’t spark, but do contain a heating element that is as capable of starting a fire as any toaster.
The lack of secondhand smoke also doesn’t mean that the chemicals aren’t still being released into the atmosphere. People in a room filled with vaper are still breathing in nicotine, vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, and all the artificial flavorings in commercial vape juices – they’re just not breathing in the carcinogens associated with vaping.
Because of this, vaping should also be limited to the same areas smoking is. Though not as much of a sensory nuisance, vaping is still as dangerous as smoking in public places, and most state laws reflect that fact.
In short, it would be preferable if people didn’t smoke or vape, but it’s your job as an employer to recognize many people do and accommodate everyone. Just be sure to limit either act to designated areas where they’re not forcing other workers to take part in the habit.