E-Smoking in the workplace

We are all well accustomed to the smoking ban brought in by then Health Minister, Micheal Martin, a number of years ago. It is well engrained and is by and large accepted by Society in general. Essentially, people accept that it is not legally permissible or socially acceptable to smoke in work places, pubs, cinemas and many other social settings. People readily accept the success of its introduction.

Many interesting questions will arise over the coming months and years about smoking e-cigarettes. It is not illegal to smoke e-cigarettes. However, I have noticed signs in various public buildings prohibiting smoking of e-cigarettes or vaping, as it is called. It would seem likely that e-smoking will be banned more generally in public buildings and perhaps other buildings. The likely next step will be that employers will ban e-smoking.


It would seem that the health experts and scientists are not in agreement over the effects of e-smoking. No one can conclusively say that e-smoking is definitely unhealthy for the person smoking/vaping or for people in the vicinity of the smoker. There seems, however, to be a consensus that e-smoking is definitely less harmful than smoking of conventional cigarettes.

If an employer was to introduce a ban on vaping in circumstances where an employee has given up smoking cigarettes are they not doing a dis-service to their employee? Should they not be encouraging the employee to move from smoking cigarettes to e-smoking? The really tricky question is should the employee be allowed to e-smoke at their desk? If you force the person who is e-smoking, who has probably just given up smoking cigarettes, to go to the smoking area to e-smoke is that not more dangerous? It’s akin to forcing an alcoholic to sit at a bar where old tastes may be re-kindled (to mix my metaphors).


The above clearly envisages that people would be allowed to e-smoke in the workplace. However, that may very well annoy co-workers who are sitting beside them. But if an employer is to go down the route of banning everything that annoys other employees then what’s next – ban garlic, incessant humming or the wearing of bright colours? In reality you need a reason to ban something.


The original smoking ban covered tobacco products, cigarettes, rollies, pipes and cigars. It does not extend to e-cigarettes which are battery operated. If e-smoking isn’t illegal why then should employees that use them be corralled in with the normal smokers? An employee who smokes an e-cigarette could argue that they are not actually smoking and have a right to be provided with a smoke free area and should not be put in with tobacco smokers. Employers will justifiably agree that such would be an unacceptable and unnecessary cost to put on to them.


In reality it will be up to each individual employer to decide whether or not to permit e-smoking in the work place. Consultation with the employees is the essential first step before putting in place any policy in relation to e-smoking.