4-1-1 on Comp: Vaping in the Workplace

Bruce Burk

Vaping is the new smoking. Employers are struggling with how to deal with employees using e-cigarettes in the workplace. Lawmakers in many states have created laws either banning the use of e-cigarettes or limiting the sale of the products.


In Florida, there is a proposal to ban vaping in the workplace. Lawmakers are trying to get the measure placed on the 2018 ballot in connection with the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission which has approved the proposal. This is largely due to the fact that the current law banning smoking in the workplace does not cover e-cigarettes.

Sen. Lisa Carlton, who is on the Commission said, “No one should be forced to endure a cloud of harmful vapor in their cubicle as they work to support their families,” and “…No parent should have to worry about the health of their child because someone is vaping at the adjoining restaurant table, movie theater seat, grocery store or next to them inside the mall.”


In California, the legislature included e-cigarettes in law which bans smoking in the workplace. The measure, enacted in June of 2016, also bans e-cigarette use in public places including restaurants and bars.


Lawmakers in New York passed legislation which went into effect Nov. 22, 2017 that bans vaping everywhere that smoking is banned, including workplaces, bars, and restaurants.


Texas does not currently have a statewide ban on vaping in the workplace. However, many cities in the Lone Star State have enacted measures that ban vaping in the workplace, bars, and restaurants.


Illinois includes a ban on indoor workplaces because e-cigarettes are included in items prohibited by the Illinois Clean Indoor Air Act. Many cities in Illinois also have their own regulations that ban e-cigarettes in enclosed workplaces, bars, and restaurants.


Connecticut has a statewide ban on vaping anywhere smoking is prohibited.


Some other states that do not ban vaping in the workplace statewide include Arkansas, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington.


Employers who allow vaping in the workplace risk exposure to both civil litigation and workers’ compensation claims. Employees with disabilities could also potentially bring ADA claims under the failure to accommodate standard who are exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace. There are numerous cases of occupational exposure claims brought by individuals who were exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace. Adopting a smoke free workplace is a way to decrease exposure to e-cigarette related litigation. Doing so also has the potential to reduce premiums. In several states, employers are under a legal duty to provide a safe workplace and exposing workers to secondhand smoke could result in the violation of that duty, which increases the risk of exposure to a negligence claim. Where appropriate, employers should encourage workers to take part in smoking cessation programs.


The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has recently published a report with many findings about the use of e-cigarettes. (The CDC has not performed a study regarding the long-term use of the device.) The report found that e-cigarettes are favorable when compared to regular cigarettes. However, chemicals found in e-cigarettes such as formaldehyde and acrolein can cause DNA damage and mutagenesis. Long-term use can also increase the risk of cancer. E-cigarettes can cause increased asthma in teenagers as well as coughing and respiratory issues. The report ultimately concludes that users should be educated on the harmful effects of e-cigarettes and encouraged to quit smoking. Particular emphasis is needed to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in young adults.

Click here to read WorkerCompensation.com’s Featured News coverage on vaping.