Holy e-smokes! Some businesses allow vaping cigarettes in workplace

Electronic cigarettes produce vapors

Electronic cigarettes produce vapors

An electronic cigarette

Photo by Picasa 2.7

An electronic cigarette

— Where there’s smoking, there’s not always firing in the workplace.

That’s because employees aren’t actually smoking on the job in some cases — they’re vaping.

With the growing trend of electronic cigarettes, a few Southwest Florida businesses are allowing vaping in the workplace. Safety Harbour Insurance Inc., which serves Lee and Collier counties, allows its employees to e-puff away at work.

“We absolutely love it,” said manager Candace Nichols, who has been using e-cigarettes for nearly a year after smoking tobacco cigarettes for 13 years. “It cuts back on the extra break time, so we are able to be more productive within the business.”

Nichols, among others, said e-cigarettes helped them quit regular tobacco smoking.

For that reason, other companies are considering changing their policies to allow vaping, including Lee Memorial Health System.

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, vaporize a liquid solution into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking though some have nicotine and others don’t. The product was introduced in the U.S. about five years ago and several vapor lounges have opened in Collier and south Lee. So far, health officials, including the Food and Drug Administration, and researchers don’t agree on the health benefits or risks involved.

Lee Memorial Health System’s policy against tobacco products in any of its buildings includes vaping and e-cigarettes, but that ban could change.

“The policy was written several years ago when e-cigarettes were much less common,” Lee Memorial spokeswoman Mary Briggs wrote in an email. “We recognize that many people are using them to help them stop smoking so we are going to review the policy this summer to see if it needs any changes.”

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, vaporize a liquid solution into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking though some have nicotine and others don’t.

Many Southwest Florida employers, including local governments, schools and some other hospital officials, say e-cigarettes fall into the same category as tobacco cigarettes and apply the existing tobacco-free workplace polices to e-cigarettes.

At NCH Healthcare System, e-cigarettes are included in the overall smoke-free policy.

“The long-term health effects from e-cigarettes is simply unknown at this time,” said Scott Wiley, director of NCH Cardiopulmonary Services, in a statement.

Wiley said some sources suggest e-cigarettes may be helpful in smoking cessation programs as a source of nicotine replacement. However, other evidence suggests that the level of nicotine replacement in blood levels is often insufficient to support appropriate nicotine withdraw. He said the use of e-cigarettes mimics the behavior of cigarette smoking.

“This ‘like’ behavior may encourage conversion to actual cigarette smoking and does not support the behavioral change necessary for smoking cessation to occur,” he said.

E-cigarettes contain various strengths of nicotine but no tobacco, said Bob Hargrove, co-owner of the Naples Vapor lounge.

E-liquids have propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin mixed with flavors, with options for levels of nicotine concentrate — or no level of nicotine. E-cigarettes are available in disposable and rechargeable.

Tamika Seaton, spokeswoman for the city of Naples, said the city will have to explore language in its tobacco-free workplace policies to include all forms of cigarettes and other types of smoking — lighted or unlighted cigarettes.

“It is still a cigarette and the policy will still stand,” she said.

State law prohibits smoking in public buildings and sites but has allowed areas to be designated for smoking at the discretion of the person in charge. Effective Nov. 1, 2010, it is the city’s policy in Naples that smokers or tobacco users won’t be hired.

When asked about people using e-cigarettes, Seaton said they would be told that they have to obey the regulations of not smoking.

Lee County government employees and volunteers were restricted from using tobacco products as of Jan. 1, 2011. Tobacco products include any other nicotine-based products or products that simulate the use of tobacco, such as e-cigarettes, according to its policy.

People visiting county offices cannot use e-cigarettes because Lee’s tobacco-free workplace policy identifies e-cigarettes as tobacco products, Lee County spokeswoman Betsy Clayton wrote in an email.

E-liquids have propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin mixed with flavors, with options for levels of nicotine concentrate — or no level of nicotine. E-cigarettes are available in disposable and rechargeable.

In Collier County government buildings, the use of e-cigarettes hasn’t been a matter that staff has had to address, said Mike Sheffield, assistant Collier County manager, in an email.

The use of e-cigarettes is included in the Collier School District’s tobacco-free polices. Use of tobacco means all uses of any lighted or unlighted tobacco product of any form, according to the policy.

“The decision to include electronic cigarettes in our Tobacco Free Environment Policy was based on the issue that nicotine, even when ingested with electronic cigarettes, remains a health concern. In addition, we wanted to make sure that we were in compliance with the statewide policy of ensuring a smoke-free environment regardless of the medium in which smoking is undertaken,” district officials said in a statement.

The Lee School District doesn’t have a specific policy that addresses e-cigarettes as part of its drug-free or tobacco-free policy, but the district is researching how it may have to revise the policy to include e-cigarettes, said Amity Chandler, spokeswoman for Lee schools.

“It is uncertain at this time how quickly that policy will be revised, but we can presume it will be before the next school year,” she said. “The student code of conduct will ban them specifically for students next year, making the presence of the e-cigarette a school discipline issue.”

Hargrove of Naples Vapor lounge said some businesses in Cape Coral and North Fort Myers allow employees and customers to vape. He said he has vaped at Lee restaurants, movie theatres and supermarkets.

When asked about businesses that ban e-cigarettes, Hargrove said they are OK to do so until the Food and Drug Administration approves vapor cigarettes.

During a recent trial in the federal courthouse in Fort Myers, a military veteran was seen puffing away in the hallway on a vanilla flavor e-cigarette while waiting for court. No one stopped him.

Insurance company manager Nichols said there is no proven health risk to other employees or customers of a harmful vapor — there’s no smoke, only water vapor.

She said vaping is beneficial because the vapor smell doesn’t cling to clothes, unlike normal cigarettes.

Two employees who use e-cigarettes at the insurance office in Pine Island said they tend not to vape in front of clients when assisting them.

“It’s a great tool and I think it’s something all businesses should welcome,” said Nichols, who vapes green dragon flavor, a fruity mix with dragon fruit, watermelon, banana and strawberry.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features