HR Strange But True!
May 22, 2008

Thought your workplace smoking policy was all set? Well, e-cigarettes, that pack a nicotine wallop but create no secondhand smoke, have arrived from China. The question is, is their use in the workplace "smoking"?

In a word of virtual everything, we now have e-cigarettes, e-cigars, and e-pipes that mix vaporized nicotine with water at a low temperature to produce a mist that is inhaled, producing the same physiological and psychological attributes of smoking without the harmful smoke, according to an article in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The product is not intended as a cessation product that weans smokers off tobacco; its purpose is to let smokers enjoy nicotine indoors without that long walk to take a tobacco break outdoors. And since no tobacco--and no burning--are involved, the device is not currently under federal and state regulations, according to the article.

One manufacturer, Ruyan, a Hong Kong firm with an office in Minnesota , says that use of these nicotine inhalers does not produce any smell or other effect that could disturb a coworker. For the user, the tar and other byproducts of burning tobacco are eliminated, but the "buzz" is quicker and more intense because the mist is absorbed directly into the lungs.

While the e-cigar looks realistic, the e-cigarette looks more like a fountain pen (there has to be room for the miniature pump and tiny batteries). The cost is reasonable compared with tobacco products. The kit starts at around $80 and replaceable nicotine cartridges are about $2 each.

"I bought [the product] because it was too cold to go outside to smoke," says one casino worker quoted in the article. "It's not as good as a real cigarette, but it does feel like you are inhaling nicotine."

So, do you let workers "inhale" at their workstations anytime they want? Does this even come under your "smoking" policy? And can colleagues get sick from secondhand "mist"?

Another conundrum will be if "inhalers" claim they have quit smoking for health insurance purposes or to garner cessation incentives.

Of course, everything will be easier if your employees stick to nicotine gum products--as long as they don't stick it under their desks!

Source: Colorado Springs Gazette

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