I first came across 'electronic' cigarettes when Sam, a lady who rides at the same stables as my daughter 'lit up' during a lesson. The Instructor was quick to say 'please put that out, it's a fire hazard, we are strictly no smoking here' but it was then explained that it wasn't a 'proper' cigarette but one of the new electronic ones. According to Croners, the workplace H&S experts, the reaction of the Instructor wasn't unique and they say that the rise in popularity of 'electronic cigarettes' has fuelled workplace smoking rows, and I can see why. Just a couple of weeks later a lady was seen 'puffing away' at our Church Table Top sale - again it was an e-cigarette being used but as an ardent non-smoker I was pleasantly surprised to see the reaction of others present, most of whom felt it was inappropriate and some of whom made it abundantly clear that they didn't like seeing it regardless of whether or not it was a 'real' cigarette, and that made me realise how much we've moved on in terms of acceptance of smoking in public places.
It seems that workplace H&S advisors are getting more and more questions about this issue as smokers switch to what they see as a healthier option than the traditional range of tobacco based products. Croners give an interesting legal persepective on the issue. Technically, as e-cigarettes are not lit there is every chance that they will sit outside the traditional definitions used within many workplace smoking policies, which were written long before anyone has thought of e-cigarettes. The change in the market place and range of available products means that employers may need to review and redefine their policy to take account of changing circumstances. Basil Long, from Croners, comments:
'A workplace smoking policy can normally be adapted very easily to extend the definition of smoking to include the use of e-cigarettes, however as with any other changes to employment policies, care needs to be taken to ensure the change is effective and not challenged by employees.'
OHSAS18001, the Safety standard, encourages businesses to consult with employees and consider new and emerging issues and this is a great example of how the standard can help businesses work on such issues. By taking a pragmatic and careful approach to such issues businesses can ensure that they are able to implement changes effectively and efficiently and do so in a timely manner.
In researching this article I've been amazed to find the huge range of e-cigarettes and associated products which are available - clearly this is a very current business growth area and one which is going to continue to develop, not something that's going to be an overnight wonder. As employers we need to remember that and take notice of the changing circumstances around this delicate and troublesome issue. Having thought that the Smoking Policy which was introduced some years ago had addressed the matter once and for all we now need to recognise that it may well need review and update. I bet the Riding Stables havn't addressed the issue yet and now have the Church Hall policy on my 'radar' for a review.