Friday, 9 May 2014

In response to employer ecig ban

This is a copy of what I have put into my employer on their new policy banning ecigs - I don't expect it to get anywhere but at least I have vented my spleen.

The Amendment

An amendment was recently made to the Smokefree Workplace Policy in the People Management Handbook which reflects the fact that the Council does not support the use of e-cigarettes and other vapour producing products. The use of these products is not permitted in Council owned and operated buildings and associated outdoor areas such as depots, yards and car parks or in Council vehicles.

The decision is based on the fact that these products are not currently regulated as a licensed nicotine replacement therapy. Many of these products may make the users appear to be smoking, so the addition to the policy also reflects the reputation and professionalism of the Council.


The term “electronic cigarette” is a generic term and not very helpful since, despite their name, “electronic cigarettes” are totally different from cigarettes. Many, but not all, are in the form of thin white tubes that look like cigarettes. Some electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, some do not. Some produce a white odourless vapour; others produce no vapour at all. They do not burn tobacco and do not create smoke (products of combustion). They bare only aesthetic resemblance (and then in only certain cases) to cigarettes.

The current situation

Smokefree workplace policy

This Policy has been developed to

·         protect all colleagues, Councillors, citizens and visitors from exposure to second-hand smoke

·         ensure compliance with the Health Act 2006 and the 2007 Smokefree Regulations

·         contribute to the Nottingham City Council's Health and Wellbeing at Work Strategy

All of these aims are entirely supported by vaping so there is no justification for preventing their use on these grounds.

Ban from smoking in work time across all council properties and vehicles

It’s simply not working. As a previous smoker any amount of publications, internet statements and even manager reprimands made no difference to my smoking habit. You need to remember that this is an addiction to nicotine, which can be accurately compared to a caffeine addiction. You try to stop a coffee addict from his/her morning cuppa! It just makes smokers more devious, dig their heels in and, in the case of vehicles, is not monitorable. The number of smokers who still congregate around by the Employment offices on Station Street at any time of day is not checked or mentioned. The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ policy was appreciated whilst I smoked but it is not addressing core goals which should be increasing productivity and improving health.  



The Alternatives

As you were with ban on E-cigarettes

As mentioned above, this is not working to reduce smoking or improve productivity. It engenders morale issues between smokers and non-smokers. Given that there are no recognised significant ill effects to the vapour or anyone else and nicotine is a dangerous as caffeine, to prohibit the use of these devices seems counter to good health and smokefree policies.

Given the increasing evidence demonstrating the proven success at reducing cigarette addiction a policy supporting colleagues (and citizens) into vaping and away from cigarettes would be more progressive for the good of Nottingham.

Ban cigarettes, promote vaping

There is an opportunity for a progressive health policy, being at the forefront and leading the way in reducing smoking by seizing on the benefits of vaping. Everyone (even those that stand against the industry) agrees that e-cigarettes are better for the individual and second hand by massive degrees of magnitude than smoking. Don’t let any minutiae of detail cloud this fact. These things don’t kill you or anyone around you. They don’t even harm you or anyone around you in any discernable way – and remember, given the advances in technology since cigarettes were invented we can ‘discern’ considerably more than we could.

Vaping and e-cigarettes have been called the biggest breakthrough in medical science since the discovery of penicillin, so why is there resistance? This is largely coming from big tobacco, which is losing millions financially, pharmaceutical companies, who are losing money on other Nicotine Replacement Therapies and on cancer drugs no longer required and even from the Governments who stand to lose out on tax revenues as people move from cigarettes to vaping.

The debate then becomes what are this Council’s aims?

·         To improve the health and wellbeing of citizens and colleagues? 

·         To line to coffers of central government and private companies?

One policy clearly encourages ongoing use of tobacco whilst the other encourages healthier options like vaping.

It is going to take someone to be brave and stand up for this young activity. In a city where we have above average smokers (28% of over 16s compared to 20% nationally) it seems we have the opportunity to lead the way.

Policy ideas

Policies could be tailored and limited in whichever ways thought appropriate but the overall aim would be to encourage people out of smoking and hence limit impact on health to a significant extent.

A policy could allow vaping in office only, not public facing; it could limit to ‘mod’ type devices and still ban ‘lookalike’ e-cigarettes; it could even restrict flavours so any residual ‘smell’ from the vapour (which is minimal and does not linger) is pleasant.   – Any of these options would be more ‘professional’ than the street smokers and cigarette ends littering the floor outside that we currently have.

If an employee is allowed to vape inside workplaces, there will be no need to take smoking breaks outside, against the policy of the council. The employee can stay and remain working at his/her desk while enjoying vaping break.

It will also boost office morale. Non-smoking coworkers will not feel resentment or dislike toward a smoker colleague due to the frequent breaks that person is taking outside.

No one will be at risk from second-hand smoke. There are no messy ashtrays or littering cigarette butts within the office or outside as well.

In the UK smokefree legislation exists to protect the public from the demonstrable harms of secondhand smoke. ASH does not consider it appropriate for electronic cigarettes to be subject to this legislation as there is no second hand smoke.

If this is part of the Smokefree Workplace Policy then having the discussion based on preconceived notions, misleading data, and scaremongering does nothing but encourage smokers to keep using tobacco.

Finally, it should be remembered that offering a safe and effective alternative to smoking tobacco to people who are addicted to nicotine may turn out to support compliance with smokefree legal requirements and make smokefree policies easier to implement.

It is up to people using nicotine to decide, and a decision to switch to electronic devices has two beneficial effects: a dramatic reduction in risk, and a staging post for complete nicotine cessation, if the user wishes to take that step. If they conclude they want to keep the nicotine without the harm, we – the coffee and wine drinkers – should not sit in judgement of the use of a different recreational drug.

It really comes down to the purpose of the policy. If we are looking to promote good health and a smokefree city then vaping promotion would appear to play a key role in achieving this.

I would be happy to discuss this further as it is something I feel very strongly about and I think we could be seen to be as the vanguard of smoking cessation if we take the right step now.

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