It’s hard to imagine now, but a generation ago, most states in the U.S. did not guarantee smoke-free workplaces by law. Businesses were left to create (and enforce) their own policies to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke exposure. As smoke-free air became the norm, not only did exposure to secondhand smoke decrease, but overall rates of smoking declined as well.
Today, history is repeating itself, with only 17 states having laws prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes and vaping in indoor areas of worksites, restaurants, and bars. However, businesses concerned with the cost and health impact of vaping can adapt long-standing best practices to meet the needs of the modern workforce.
Comprehensive tobacco-free policies have multiple benefits
A comprehensive tobacco-free policy (like this one) prohibits using tobacco products at work. Ideally, they go beyond state and local laws by applying to outdoor property. For the majority of vape users who wish to stop, policies matter a great deal. Like smoke-free workplace laws, vaping policies are directly correlated with attempts to quit.
Vaping policies can even benefit people who do not vape. New research shows that simply seeing others vape at work can be triggering for those who use or have already quit using other tobacco products. Employers can guarantee that at least a portion of a worker’s day is tobacco-free, which is a generous gift for those actively trying – and struggling – to avoid it.
Emerging research is beginning to tell the story of the cost of vaping. Vape users, insurance companies, health care providers, and employers share a burden totaling over 10 billion dollars a year in health care costs alone. Everyone benefits when vape users are supported in quitting.
Update and enforce your policy
There’s a good chance your business already has a tobacco-free policy, and it may even be stronger than your local or state law. Take some to review it annually and see if it impacts the lives of your employees and the operation of your business. When reviewing, ask yourself these questions:
- Are there spaces inside or outside where an employee could still vape?
- Realistically, what will happen when an employee violates the policy?
- How will the policy be publicized? Are clear signs posted in multiple places? (Most tobacco-free workplaces are self-enforcing this way.)
- Does the policy frame a vape-free working environment as a benefit for everyone, including current and former tobacco users?
Complement your policy with cessation benefits
Most people who vape want to stop. When vape users spend their days in a tobacco-free working environment, they are more likely to attempt to quit vaping. But even a powerful “why” to quit is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s just as important to provide cessation benefits that give your employees the “how.”
As part of your policy to keep tobacco use out of the workplace, offer comprehensive, evidence-based cessation support like Pivot. In the Pivot app, your employees can find informative lessons and opportunities to track and reflect on their tobacco use, practical challenges, a community of peers, and one-on-one guidance from a certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist.
Quitting nicotine can be hard, but cultivating a healthy, tobacco-free culture gives your workforce – and your business – the best chance at a healthy, prosperous future.
Linda Bundick, MS, CHES, NBC-HWC, NCTTP