TO VAPE OR NOT TO VAPE « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Should Employers Ban E-Cigarettes in the Workplace?

Given the widespread popularity of electronic cigarettes, more cities and states are passing legislation to address their use in the workplace. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-powered and tobacco free. They vaporize a liquid nicotine solution that users inhale and then puff out (i.e., “vaping”). The exhaled water vapor appears similar to traditional tobacco smoke but without the odor.

Three states, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Utah, have enacted bans against e-cigarettes in the workplace. Multiple cities have followed suit, including Seattle, Boston, New York City and Chicago. Surprisingly, California, usually in the forefront of such legislation, has yet to expand its workplace smoking bans to encompass e-cigarettes. Absent a state-wide ban, some California counties and cities have prohibited e-cigarettes on their own, including Marin County, Santa Clara County, and the City of Los Angeles.

Employers with multi-city or multi-state operations should consider instituting a uniform ban on e-cigarettes to ensure compliance as such prohibitions continue to spread. Even in jurisdictions with no restrictions on workplace vaping, employers may wish to ban the practice outright for several reasons, such as to prevent co-worker and customer complaints and to avoid triggering indoor smoke detectors. Some employees have reportedly misused e-cigarettes or “vape pens” to smoke marijuana in their workplaces. That practice may be difficult to detect because the vapor does not have a discernible odor.

Where lawful, some employers view vaping as a means to increase productivity and decrease absenteeism since such users need not leave the building for multiple cigarette breaks beyond the minimum required rest periods. If an employer permits vaping, however, it should explicitly ban marijuana or other drug use in vape pens and reserve the right to inspect such devices for such illicit substances.

For assistance creating complete and comprehensive workplace policies, contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.