Public Health England’s framework advice for organisations and employers is a guide for creating tailored policies on the use of e-cigarettes.
In late 2014 PHE engaged in an online discussion with stakeholders on the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places and workplaces, with the purpose of encouraging debate and building an evidence-based consensus around this important issue.
We proposed draft principles for policies and practice, and invited a wide range of stakeholders to comment on these, including public health professionals, tobacco control experts, business owners, local authority representatives and e-cigarette users.
The outcome is a widely informed framework which recognises that there is no “one size fits all” solution, as managers of different public places and workplaces will have different circumstances to consider.
The framework contains five principles that will help guide the creation of a vaping policy that's appropriate for each organisation, covering the following considerations:
Workplace environments vary greatly and there is no standard approach that will suit all; a factory or warehouse is a very different setting to a nursery school – with very different considerations at stake.
These examples would all be consistent with PHE’s advice:
- A town council prohibits smoking indoors and outdoors on their grounds, while prohibiting e-cigarettes indoors but allowing them outdoors.
- A school treats e-cigarettes as they would any other age-restricted product and prohibits their possession anywhere on school property.
- A mental health trust with a completely smokefree policy allows e-cigarette use in specific parts of the hospital grounds and in designated places indoors, such as single occupancy bedrooms.
Supporting smokers to quit while managing risks
There are now 2.8 million e-cigarette users in the UK, almost half of whom have completely stopped smoking [ASH 2016] and there is a need for appropriate policies in public places and workplaces. PHE’s framework will help organisations to create evidence-based policies on e-cigarettes that will support smokers to quit and stay smokefree, while managing any risks specific to their setting.
We believe that vaping should not be treated the same as smoking. E-cigarette use does not meet the legal or clinical definitions of smoking and while there is conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful to health, there is currently no evidence of harm from secondhand e-cigarette vapour and any risks are likely to be extremely low.
Harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke, including carcinogens, are either completely absent in e-cigarette vapour or if present, are mostly at levels 1% to 0.1% of that found in tobacco smoke.
However smokers increasingly believe vaping is as dangerous as smoking; this mistaken belief may be discouraging some smokers from switching.
There remains some legitimate concern about the long term effects of e-cigarette use and we are committed to monitoring the evidence as it emerges.
We will keep our position and advice under review, communicating it so that policymakers and the public have the information they need to make informed decisions.
Image: public domain