In the UK, it is illegal to smoke in an enclosed public area or workplace. Because of this employers, usually, only allow their staff to smoke on their premises in a designated smoking area which is outside. To abide by the smoking laws businesses are required to:
- Display no smoking signs.
- Enforce that people don’t smoke in shared work vehicles or enclosed work spaces.
- Ensure smokers go outside, a staff smoking room is no longer allowed.
The consequences for not adhering to the law can incur penalties and fines.
Fines and Penalties
Employees can be fined up to £200 for smoking in the workplace. Businesses run the risk of being fined up to £2,500 if they do not stop people from smoking on the work premises. Failing to display no smoking signs could incur a hefty £1,000 fine for a business owner.
So what about e-cigarettes, do these laws and their penalties apply to them as well?
The Law on E-cigarettes
In a word NO! The law does not apply to e-cigarettes. Which leaves it down to employers to decide if e-cigarettes can be used on their premises or not. However, this decision is not as straightforward as it might sound. Careful consideration should be given as:
Many users of e-cigarettes do so as part of their bigger plan to give up smoking altogether. In this situation, it may be beneficial for the employer to show support to their employee.Not allowing e-cigarettes to be used on the premises may mean that a person trying to give up smoking would be sent to a designated smoking area with smokers. This could hinder their progress in giving up smoking.
Not allowing e-cigarettes to be used on the premises may mean that a person trying to give up smoking would be sent to a designated smoking area with smokers. This could hinder their progress in giving up smoking.
Other employees may find the vapour from e-cigarettes uncomfortable or annoying to put up with. There may be health risks to employees in the form of passive consumption. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown as yet, so there is a risk they could have the same long-term effects as passive smoking.
There may be health risks to employees in the form of passive consumption. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown as yet, so there is a risk they could have the same long-term effects as passive smoking.
A separate e-cigarette smoking area could be defined within the premises to keep all parties happy.
Clear no smoking and E-cigarette Rules
It is important that the company e-cigarette rules are made clear to all employees. The perfect way to do this is to include it into an existing smoking policy.
Signs should be displayed to show where smoking is permitted and where it is not. Ensure signs and instructions for both smoking and e-cigarettes are displayed to avoid any confusion.
It is important that employees are made aware of the consequences of non-compliance to all smoking regulations, so:
- Make it clear that disciplinary action could arise from any unauthorised or the excessive taking of smoking or e-cigarette smoking breaks.
- Communicate that disciplinary action could be the result of smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes in any unauthorised areas.
- Remind employees that it is a criminal offence to smoke in any designated smoke-free area and could lead to a hefty fine.
Employers are urged to follow the rules and guidance given for e-cigarettes in the workplace and for them to be outlined in their smoking policy. This will enable disciplinary action to be taken against the misuse of e-cigarettes should the need arise.
Are your policies on e-cigarettes documented in your workplace? Let us know in the comments.