By B. Kevin Folsom, CEP
Published in the July 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
QAre electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) subject to the same smoking policy ban in facilities as regular cigarettes? Federal agencies (including the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Air Force) have banned the use of these products based on the Surgeon General’s report in 2010, which classified e-cigarettes as “tobacco products.” Does this mean we need to revise tobacco-free policies in the workplace to include e-cigarettes as a form of tobacco?
ANew technology will always cause us to rethink how we do things, and it often includes testing our “convictions and traditions.” New technologies spur us to remove barriers that prevented us from doing something better…or less bad.
One newer technology facility managers (fm) may find impacting their facilities procedures soon are e-cigarettes. Is it smoking when someone uses one? Or is it not smoking? That is the question!
An e-cigarette is a device created to be used like a regular cigarette. Rather than using an open flame or burning smolder that produces smoke, this item uses a battery to heat a liquid nicotine into a vapor; this is referred to as vaping. Users simply inhale and exhale a vapor of nicotine (which can be purchased at varying levels if someone wants to wean themselves off of smoking/vaping). I’m told by smokers that the sensation is very much the same as smoking but without the terrible odor, mess, chemicals, and tar.
Here is where the problem lies for fms. Vaping looks so much like smoking how do we allow this without smokers feeling slighted? It’s very visually confusing. So let’s take a quick look at both sides of the issue.
Regular cigarettes/cigars: The problem with smoking indoors is twofold: 1) It exposes non-smokers to secondhand smoke without their consent. 2) It’s a fire hazard.
E-cigarettes/cigars: These only heat up while inhaling, the exhaled vapor has a pleasant odor, and presumably no secondhand nicotine enters the air.
So there are two other problems there: 1) Many of us have fragrance-free policies, and if you don’t yet, you will. This is where candles and electric wickless devices that are scented or unscented are prohibited. 2) There are no official studies that prove building occupants are not exposed to secondhand nicotine. If a product is labeled as a fragrance, the manufacturer is not required to disclose ingredients on the Material Safety Data Sheet. The ingredients are considered to be proprietary, confidential, etc. This prevents fms from determining what the occupants are involuntarily being subjected to.
I have not had to address this on my campus yet, but if you have and have advice to share, please submit it in the comments section below.