As the U.S. begins to reopen, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) emphasizes that every shared space, including businesses, will have to keep public health strategies in mind.
Significant aspects of successful reopening, the CDC notes, will be developing and implementing a plan for keeping public spaces like workplaces clean and disinfected, and ensuring that employees have adequate ventilation. The CDC also suggests conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace.
Here’s one hazard you won’t want to overlook: Vaping in the workplace.
E-cigarette use isn’t harmless, either for users themselves or those around them exposed to secondhand aerosol. At a time when you need to be identifying and minimizing every potential health risk so employees can be better protected, vaping constitutes a respiratory irritant—just as you’re attempting to block exposure to a respiratory condition.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 attacks the lungs, and could be a particularly serious threat to tobacco users, both smokers and vapers. Yet, our research shows only 31% of employers do anything to encourage employees to quit or to reduce vaping.
That may be because many employers think vaping isn’t an issue in their workplaces, but in fact, it’s often a bigger problem than they realize.
See all the survey results. Download “Vaping in the Workplace: A Bigger Issue than You Think” now.
What happens when employee vaping at work conflicts with the need for a healthier workplace? The answer could be a challenge you didn’t expect.
Potential impacts of vaping in the workplace
Employees are already nervous about coming back to work. Not everyone can work from home, though, like those in manufacturing, driving/delivery, retail, and other industries.
When addressing potential hazards to return people to work, vaping might be a blindspot—and it’s one that may have serious consequences in a number of ways, from exposing your employees to potential health risks, to increased absenteeism due to shortcomings in helping employees quit, to inadvertently creating a generally unhealthy workplace that may make it even less appealing for customers to visit.
Vaping has also been shown to impact productivity, compounding the difficulty with reopening a business. Our survey showed that 55% of non-vapers say that vaping decreases their productivity, and 70% of non-vapers perceive vaping as a major productivity killer for those who do vape.
All of this adds up to a crucial need to address vaping in your workplace now, and as you’re in the planning process to return people to work. In our survey, 97% of respondents say a workplace that supports their health and wellness is important to them—and that was before COVID-19. Now, they have an expectation that employers will do everything possible to ensure health and safety as part of returning to work.
Becoming aware of this hazard is the first big step toward change. The next is to focus on reducing and eliminating vaping in the workplace. For that, you need an evidence-based cessation program that works for every person in your organization and helps them quit in the way they prefer.
The EX Program offers personalized quitting support for all forms of tobacco, including support to e-cigarette users and to parents of children who vape. To learn more about how the EX Program works, visit our program page.
Megan Jacobs – EX program – Truth Initiative – July 1, 2020.