Safety HR occupational health management

Tobacco in the Workplace

New technology brings tobacco back in house

For the past five decades, tobacco use in the United States has been on the decline. Over the past 60 years, traditional cigarettes and tobacco products have been slowly exiting the cultural landscape, as use has dropped 68% among adults.

However, new technology such as e-cigarettes and hookah, not really new but recently revived in the U.S., are appealing to more teens and young people, causing an increase in tobacco use in the workplace again.

  • As of 2018, 9% of U.S. adults said they “regularly or occasionally” vape. (Gallup, 2018)
  • In the U.S., 27.5% of high school students use vape products. (The Truth Initiative, 2019)
  • According to a 2019 survey, more than 5 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. (U.S Food and Drug Administration, 2019)
  • Nearly 1 million youth e-cigarette users use the product daily, and 1.6 million use it more than 20 times per month. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2019)

Also, many teens and young people choose these products because they are under the radar, not as obvious as the cigarette smoking of their parents and grandparents.

While we know the dangers from tobacco smoke well due to ad campaigns from the 70s and 80s, and disclaimers we still find on Disney cartoons, the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping are still relatively unknown. The CDC is studying the effects of secondhand vapor, and so far, they’ve found that it’s not only the tobacco that’s harmful, but the flavoring chemicals in the e-cigarettes as well.

According to the CDC, “While ENDS aerosol may differ in some ways from tobacco smoke, users of ENDS and those around persons using ENDS are still exposed to many different types of chemical compounds (some of which are known carcinogens), very small particles, and numerous hazardous metals.11-13 Chemicals emitted in ENDS aerosols can include carcinogens such as formaldehyde, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and other chemicals, as well as various organic compounds that are irritating to the lung, and flavoring compounds.14,16-18 Among flavoring compounds emitted in some ENDS aerosol are 2,3-pentanedione and diacetyl, which NIOSH has linked to causing obliterative bronchiolitis, a devastating lung disease in workers.4

The recommendation is that employers establish a smoke-free workplace, again reviving those policies that were so necessary in earlier decades, to protect their workers and their customers. Employers should also spell out all prohibited products, including:

  • e-hookahs
  • e-pipes
  • e-cigars
  • e-cigarettes
  • advanced modular ENDS (Electronic nicotine delivery systems)
  • tobacco products
  • cigarettes
  • cigars
  • chewing tobacco
  • smokeless tobacco
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