Businesses struggle to decide on e-cigarette rules

Most businesses ban smoking in the workplace, but what about the new electronic cigarettes? Should those be banned as well?

E-cigarettes convert a liquid, which may contain nicotine, into a vapor. Some companies want to encourage e-cigarettes as a way to help workers quit smoking – which can reduce absenteeism and health costs.

On the other hand, some businesses see e-cigarettes as simply a milder, but still harmful, version of regular cigarettes. And they say little research has been done on the effects on co-workers of inhaling secondhand vapors.

The law is still developing. Some 24 states currently ban regular cigarette smoking in the workplace, but only three also ban e-cigarettes (New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah).

However, more than 100 cities, including Chicago, have passed ordinances that forbid e-cigarette use in areas where regular cigarettes are already banned.

Large U.S. companies are taking different approaches. Wal-Mart and Starbucks prohibit both workers and customers from using e-cigarettes, but McDonald’s allows both to use them freely. CVS bans them at its corporate offices, but Exxon Mobil allows them in designated areas.

UPS charges non-union regular tobacco smokers $150/month extra in health insurance premiums, and it recently decided to apply this extra charge to e-cigarette smokers as well.

Obviously there’s no one correct solution, but e-cigarettes are an issue that almost every business will have to confront in the near future.

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