Electronic cigarettes at work

E-cigarettes can negatively affect indoor air quality and pose a risk of indirect exposure in the workplace. Learn more about what employers can do to eliminate exposures.

Electronic cigarettes are also called “e-cigarettes” or “e-cigs”. Some e-cigarettes look like regular traditional cigarettes, but others look like USB drives, pens, and other everyday items. When a user inhales on an e-cigarette, it heats up a liquid to form a mixture of very small droplets of liquid and gas in the air which are inhaled directly into their lungs. These droplets measure about one to two micrometers (the diameter of a human hair is about 100 micrometers). Droplets and gases may contain harmful chemicals.1 When the user exhales, some of this mixture is released into their surroundings, which can negatively impact indoor air quality.

The use of e-cigarettes is common in some US workplaces. Employees in indoor workplaces that permit the use of e-cigarettes risk unintentional exposure to these harmful chemicals. Additionally, many non-user employees perceive that e-cigarette use at work contributes to reduced productivity.2 Examples of such workplaces include:

  • Houses
  • Vehicles
  • Buildings
    • E-Cigarette Dealers
    • Bars
    • Nightclubs

Potential Harmful Effects

The very small particle size emitted by e-cigarettes means that they can be deposited in the mouths, noses and deep in the lungs of user and non-user employees.3 Additionally, NIOSH researchers report issues for primary users such as:

  • Cavities and gum disease
  • Irritations of the upper and lower respiratory tract as well as lung cancer
  • Irritation and toxicity (short and long term) to the skin, urinary tract and liver4

Preventing workplace exposures

Employers can:

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  • Establish a smoke-free indoor workplace, including free of e-cigarettes, to protect employees from unintended and indirect exposures.
  • Promote smoking cessation programs as part of an overall tobacco-free workplace.

Employees can:

  • If possible, choose a job in a tobacco-free workplace.
  • Encourage your co-workers or personally seek out e-cigarette (and smoking) quit resources, such as calling the toll-free quit smoking line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

About Margaret Shaw

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