The use of electronic cigarettes, also known as “vaping,” is growing in popularity as the use of traditional tobacco products is dropping. Restrictions on smoking and use of other tobacco products in work and public places has no doubt contributed to the decline in tobacco use, and it probably has helped fuel the increase in vaping.
Moves are afoot, however, that would limit vaping in the same manners as smoking. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a regulation that would deem e-cigarettes that contain nicotine to be the equivalent of a tobacco product for regulatory purposes. While the FDA does not control where and when tobacco products may be used, such a regulation will likely cause those entities with such control to treat e-cigarettes the same as regular ones.
Cities and local health boards, particularly, have increasingly issued regulations prohibiting or segregating smoking in public places. Employers have almost universally banned smoking from workplaces. Limitations on vaping, however, have not kept pace primarily because it was first billed as a safe alternative to smoking.
Information about the health risks of vaping is not yet well-developed, but in California, the Department of Public Health issued a report stating that e-cigarettes release, at minimum, 10 chemicals that increase the risk of cancer or birth defects. Reacting to the shortage of data, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has recommended that indoor vaping be limited to the same extent as smoking.
On a state level, the only regulation to be levied on e-cigarettes is the ban of sale to persons under 18 years of age. California is one of 47 states to have such a law. In the most recent session of the California Legislature, bills introduced in both houses would have prohibited vaping in public places as is smoking.
Employers are free to prohibit vaping in their workplaces the same as cigarette smoking without need for local or state law support. Some large employers such as CVS, Starbucks, UPS, and Walmart have taken such action. If the FDA-proposed regulation goes into effect as proposed, any employer with a policy of prohibiting smoking would be foolish to continue to allow vaping. Contact us today for more information from a professional labor lawyer in Sacramento.
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