should companies let employees use e-cigarettes at their desks?

A reader writes:

I work in a small office where our desks are stationed together, facing each other. One of my coworkers uses e-cigarettes at her desk and the menthol vapor is very strong. The scent upsets another one of my coworkers and as a person who has cystic lungs, I worry about the effects of the chemicals in the e-cigarettes.

I think it’s great that she quit smoking, but I wonder if it would be worth asking my manager to see if she can take it outside.

Yes. There’s actually a growing movement to ban e-cigarettes from workplaces, because studies show that toxins can be present in the exhaled vapor, and many people report that they aggravate their allergies.

So far, three states (New Jersey, North Dakota, and Utah) include e-cigarettes in their overall workplace smoking bans, and a quickly growing list of cities are banning them in public spaces and offices. Plenty of employers are banning them too, including big ones like General Electric, CVS Caremark, Starbucks, and Target.

It’s entirely reasonable for an employer to include e-cigarettes in their broader smoking policy, and you might suggest to your manager that your workplace do exactly that. They probably just haven’t had the impetus to think about whether and how to address it, but it’s a pretty easy call to make once they do.

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. jILL*

    I work for a public school district and many school districts are amending their no-smoking policies to include e-cigarettes. They don’t contain addictive nicotine, true, but the vapors do contain chemicals, many of which can be irritating. This is definitely worth asking your higher-ups about.

    Especially if you sit in an area where clients/customers will see you and where they may assume that you all smoke in your work areas and make assumptions about your company. (It’s not easy to tell from a distance if someone is smoking a real cigarette or an e-ciggy).

      1. the gold digger*

        I am not a fan of stale cigarette smoke or of the leathery wrinkled face that smokers get, but I have to admit I find it kind of sexy to see some of those old movie stars smoking onscreen. They did it with great style.

        That said, I do not want cigarette smoke at work.

      2. looloo*

        Actually, you can buy the e-cigs or the refillable juice without any nicotine in it. They have refills of vary levels, from no nicotine and low nicotine to higher concentrations of nicotine. That’s how my friend stopped smoking cigarettes. Although now that he smokes e-cigs, it makes his car this strange smokey fruity cupcake smell.

    1. De Minimis*

      We had to amend ours a while back, I think we did it as soon as there was an issue with someone wanting to use an e-cig on facility property [we are a medical clinic and we maintain a no tobacco policy.]

      1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

        So does the hospital I work at. Additionally, e-cigs are not allowed to be used on the bus.

        Chemicals aside, it’s like someone is burning a stinky mint candle at their desk, and who wants to smell that?

        1. Mabel*

          I feel like I’m the only person I know who doesn’t like mint, but blech! I don’t even like smelling other people’s minty gum (but I don’t say anything because… well, it’s just gum, and the smell will dissipate fairly soon anyway).

          1. fposte*

            No, you’re not the only one. I also find gum a little offputting anyway, so mint gum is a special depth. Fortunately, I have a private office with a door and enough clout to move people’s chairs around if need be :-).

            1. N.H. Lee*

              Oh, thank God. I thought I was the only one who finds gum chewing disgusting and the smell of it really nasty.

                1. Mizi1555*

                  I can’t stand to have to smell the odor of someone’s gum from their mouth if they are near me, like on the subway. It feels invasive. And they chew with their mouth open and I get the full force. Yuck.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      Actually, a lot (I won’t say “most” because I can’t defend that with facts, but I would guess it to be true) of the appeal of e-cigs is that they do contain nicotine (you can get the cartridges with varying levels and nicotine-free, but I would suspect those are the minority of sales).

      1. Jamie*

        Yes – my husband used these to quit smoking and so I’m a huge fan since he’d tried so many times over the years and it’s the only thing that worked – and it’s been about a year and a half now.

        But he stepped his level of nicotine down incrementally so he’s been using his nicotine free for about 6 months now – he just likes it. I don’t get it – but I quit cold turkey so he says I didn’t have it as hard so no vote for me – ha.

        I don’t smell most of his, but there is one that’s strong and gross – so he stopped buying it because it’s the only one I complained about. When we’re in the car I can smell it, like cherry lifesavers.

        So while I’m a huge fan of them personally, I’ve never seen one used at work. Tobacco bans ime have always included chewing tobacco, even though no second hand danger to others – can’t see why this would be any different.

        If everyone was cool with it or had their own offices – or everyone used them an office should be free to say okay – as they could with chew – so I wouldn’t support a legal ban…but definitely the default should be not to do it in the office.

        I get being orally fixated and nothing helps me work like a Charms Blow-Pop – but my dental work is happy I consider it unprofessional to do that in front of people all day long.

        (I really miss the old Charms suckers – the flat ones – those were the best thinking aids ever…I need to see if they still sell those anywhere for when I’m here alone.)

        1. Laufey*

          I worked in an amusement parks’ 1880s themed shop/area. In addition to selling a lot of preserves, etc, we also sold fake neo-vintage things – including those Charms candies. So, they’re still made, and I’ve seen them in a couple of other candy stores/niche store type places. Maybe try one of those locations?

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I just googled them and they’re all over the internet. Flat ones, right? I’m not sure if that’s what you’re thinking of, but there are a lot of vintage candy dealers who might have them. I saw some on Amazon too, though the shops might give you a better price.

      2. Dmented Kitty*

        My husband switched to these, and I’m a fan of them than regular cigarettes. Used to be he would have to step out of the house even in the dead cold of winter every so often just to take a smoke, because I don’t like the smell of tobacco smoke in the house (aside from triggering the alarms). And cigarette-breath. I had to hold my breath if I needed to give him a kiss. He adjusted to eCigs and I’m way happier with that than his good old cigarettes. While I would rather prefer him to quit, I know that the decision has to come from himself. And the nicotine has been a good way to help him cope with his clinical anxiety daily (I’ve seen him at his worst and it wasn’t pretty).

        I’m sure eCig brands vary in quality and characteristic, as well as their liquids, but they do contain varying levels of nicotine, as well as none. Maybe it’s the brand of liquid my husband uses, but I have never had issues with the vapor he emits. No distinguishable scent — I even tried checking by having him blow it directly on my face. It just mildly smells like vapor you smell while boiling water. He did try a different brand and flavor one time — and that one had a very distinct cigar scent (not to mention it blew thicker vapor). I told him I’d prefer his regular flavor and it’s been a very nice compromise. And now he does not have cigarette breath! :)

        I think eCigs are a better alternative for smoking/quitting, and I’m not for completely banning the usage of it, although I do agree more regulation is needed for these. I just don’t want to go the route of some people who would say, “ban this everywhere (even places where traditional cigarettes are otherwise allowed)!” without really doing more research into this technology.

      3. Mizi1555*

        I read online that even the “no nicotine” ones still have a very small amount. Studies are showing the vapor emitted contains nicotine, metal particles and other chemicals. NYC has imposed the same restrictions on e-cigs as regular cigarettes. Early studies show there can be harmful things in the second-hand vapor that people breathe. And the smell is annoying. Someone used one around me in a small closed room and my lungs were irritated for hours. I’m a former smoker.

    3. danr*

      Actually, most do contain nicotine, but don’t have the tars and other nasty components of “natural” cigarettes. The nicotine in the e-cigarettes is a highly concentrated liquid and dangerous when not in the vapor form.

      1. Cube Ninja*

        If you take somewhere between 0.3 and 2.4% to be “highly concentrated”, I suppose. The VAST majority of e-liquid available to consumers is not inherently dangerous. If you spill some on your skin you’ll want to wash it off or it may cause some irritation. The only way it’s particularly dangerous would be if you were to literally drink an entire 30mL bottle, or if a child were to do so. E-liquid should be kept well out of the hands of children just like any other potentially toxic substance one keeps in the home.

        1. Cheeky*

          You aren’t really correct- liquid nicotine is rather dangerous and can be deadly, especially to children. The amount of nicotine in vape liquids varies wildly by manufacturer. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.

          1. JB*

            A little OT, but I remember reading an old mystery novel years and years ago where somebody was killed by nicotine poisoning.

            1. Natalie*

              I think there was a Law & Order with that, too – baby food spiked with a nicotine-containing pesticide.

              1. Nelle*

                That was a great L&O episode – the first time I can recall seeing the wonder that is Allison Janney.

            2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              One of Georgette Heyer’s mystery novels has this– “Behold, Here’s Poison.” I think about it every time I hear about kids getting a hold of vape liquid.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Or oleander. I was just doing some research on this for something and it’s hard to find one that doesn’t taste awful. Most people would spit it out before they ingested enough to kill them. But ricin, which you get from castor beans, takes only a tiny amount to kill.

                  I know way too much about stuff I shouldn’t know about.

                2. LBK*

                  Not sure if you’ve watched Breaking Bad, but anyone who has would know ricin. It’s featured in several major plot points.

                3. the gold digger*

                  No, I watched only the first episode of “Breaking Bad” and realized I hated every character, so I never watched more. (Although I did get a kick out of the chemistry teacher getting angry that the meth maker guy wasn’t using the proper beaker or PPE.) So I guess my weapon of choice is no longer an option.

                  Elizabeth, a former boss was from California and he told me how he had to warn his recruits (when he was in the navy) not to use oleander branches to roast hot dogs and marshmallows.

                4. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

                  I like the cyanide derived from apple seeds–I first encountered that in a Trixie Belden book, THe Hudson River Mystery.

                5. Fact & Fiction*

                  This reply is actually to Elizabeth about knowing way too much about stuff she shouldn’t — the life of a writer is funny sometimes! Some of the Google searches I do just make me hope nobody ever monitors my Internet searches. Then again, at least I have a believable excuse to research things like decomposition of bodies and such. ;)

            3. Cath in Canada*

              Anyone else remember the X-Files episode where there were insect eggs in tobacco that were hatching in smokers’ lungs, and the only people who survived were the heaviest smokers, because nicotine is an insecticide?

          2. Cube Ninja*

            I’ve read the NYT article – it’s poorly researched at best and completely hyperbolic in terms of the danger.

            I clearly stated that e-liquid should be kept out of the hands of children – many states also now require child-proof caps on bottles being sold by vaping businesses. A lethal dose of nicotine for an adult is somewhere north of 100mg ingested extremely quickly. I’m aware of exactly one death in the United States related to e-liquid and it was a 16 year old who drank an entire bottle. If you have statistics to back up your assertion of lethality, I’m all for seeing them, but even CDC’s poison control statistics don’t indicate more than a handful of serious instances of toxic exposure.

            Further to that, there are dramatically more instances of children becoming ill through ingestion of household cleaners, conventional tobacco products and alcohol than as a result of e-liquid.

            1. fposte*

              That’s ignoring the far greater prevalence of those substances, though–frequency of occurrence on its own doesn’t tell you about probability of risk.

              1. Cube Ninja*

                Wasn’t meaning to imply that there isn’t risk there – simply that in terms of statistics, the instance and relative danger of toxic exposure to nicotine is a bit overstated both in the NYT article and Cheeky’s second comment.

                Bottom line just to say it again – if you vape, keep your liquid well out of the hands of kids.

                1. fposte*

                  Right, just pointing out that your assessment doesn’t indicate that nicotine is less dangerous just because its poisoning is less frequent.

                  Presumably at most workplaces the effect on a child isn’t going to be that relevant anyway, and from what I can see the self-contained cartridges are a lot more common than any refillable liquid source.

        2. Mena*

          Actually, the scientific jury is still out on the long-term implications of these vapors. Medical professionals are reserving judgement as to their ‘safety’ to users and those around them.

      2. Student*

        The main “feature” of e-cigarettes is that they contain nicotine, which doesn’t actually have strong negative health effects like regular cigarettes. You get the nicotine hit without most of the cancer-causing compounds and radioactive elements that are found in normal cigarettes (the radioactive material that is absorbed by the tobacco plant, radium, is a big contributor to the cancer rates of cigarettes).

        That said, I doubt anyone’s studied the things in e-cigarettes long enough to say whether the vapors are harmful to users or by-standards at some level. The early indications are that they should produce much better health outcomes than cigarettes, though, which is a huge positive even if they end up having some negatives.

        I think all smoking is gross, but I’ll be happy to see e-cigs bring down the country’s cancer rates.

      3. Mizi1555*

        Many people who use e-cigs wind up also smoking regular cigarettes. More and more are getting nicotine poisoning which is very dangerous. The liquid nicotine in e-cigs is very toxic to humans and you can easily overdose if you’re not careful. The ban on them in NYC is new and it remains to be seen how it will be enforced. They are under the same rules as real cigarettes in NYC. It will fall to those who are bothered to ask people to stop. I printed out the law in cases I need to show it to someone.

    4. Meg Murry*

      Also worth looking into your local or state laws. In the city I live in, e-cigarettes were added to the list of items prohibited from being smoked indoors at work, in public places and at restaurants and bars – basically, anywhere an ordinance says “cigarette” or “smoking” that means e-cigarette as well.
      But I’m also wondering if the OP has mentioned in to the colleague yet. As in, “Hey, it may not seem that way to you, but the smell of your e-cigarettes is really strong to me and it bothers me when I’m working, would you mind not doing it indoors in the office?” Unless the OP has an adversarial relationship with the e-smoker, or the office has very clear politics on what must go up the chain of command

    5. College Career Counselor*

      I was recently in an airport and caught a whiff of something that turned out to be an e-cigarette. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, and the, uh, e-smoker saw me looking at him and was very quick to say “e-cigarette–totally legal, man!”

      I had thought (incorrectly) that those things were not supposed to have an odor. Based on what I smelled, I would support a ban on those in public places, too.

      1. Traveler*

        Plus it just becomes a difficult thing to police. I’ve seen them in museums too, and its like okay I get that its not a regular cigarette but vapor/smoke – still not good.

    6. Joy*

      It’s not easy to tell from a distance if someone is smoking a real cigarette or an e-ciggy. So lets just ASSUME it’s a real cigarette. That’s the problem with the whole world no one minds their own business, if I drink water from a Vodka bottle, should water drinking then be banned from EVERYWHERE because we can’t tell if it’s water or Vodka? ugh!! Why is it that the “everything should be my way” whiners aren’t complaining about what ‘s really killing everyone? The manufacturers’ crap they put in our air, our water supply, proccesed foods, poisons they allow in our kids’ toy materials because it’s “cheaper” to deal in non -regulated countries’ materials and labor. For God’s sake people wake the hell up!!

  2. Bend & Snap*

    The chemical part is covered, and this is IMHO only, but I don’t think it looks professional at all. This isn’t Mad Men.

    1. dawbs*

      The ‘what it looks like’ thing comes into play where I work (a college) and our ban.

      The powers that be agreed that those who have to enforce rules (like ‘no foods in labs’ or ‘no loud radios in hallways’ or ‘no smoking’) shouldn’t have to run down the hall and be handed someone’s e-cig to be able to tell whether it’s a ‘real’ one or not–they look real enough that I don’t want to have to deal with it (and, thankfully, don’t)

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      Agree. I don’t know anything about e-cigs, but I’ve worked with a couple of people using them. It looks very unprofessional IMHO. Take it outside.

  3. The Wall of Creativity*

    My theory is that e-cigs are just a way for the tobacco companies to get around the (UK) rules & publish advertising that glamorises smoking. It feels like the 1960s all over again.

    1. Cat*

      To make a completely frivolous comment though, I think they look stupid enough that this is just not going to be successful.

      1. AVP*

        I thought so too until I worked on a project with teenagers and they all had them. Really hoping this is just a teen trend that everyone will grow out of and not take into their 20’s.

        1. Cube Ninja*

          Would you prefer that they smoke combustible cigarettes? I can tell you as a 34 year old man that e-cigarettes are what allowed me to quit smoking. In the past, I’ve tried patches, gum, cold turkey, etc.

          I’m unable to take Zyban (Wellbutin) or Chantix for medical reasons, which left me SOL. I haven’t smoked a single cigarette since October 31st last year. These devices have the potential to completely eradicate conventional cigarettes with a dramatically lessened risk profile. Big tobacco isn’t nearly as much involved here as is big pharma and agencies that stand to lose millions of dollars from the national tobacco settlement.

          1. Eliza Jane*

            The problem is that they aren’t being controlled like normal cigarettes. So a lot of kids who wouldn’t smoke real cigarettes are smoking e-cigs instead.

                1. Cube Ninja*

                  Your link is based directly on CDC data. As I said in my other post, you have to look PAST the press release to see the real numbers.

                  From CDC’s own website:

                  I’m not rejecting research that I don’t agree with, I’m rejecting research that’s being specifically used to draw conclusions that are flatly not supported by science.

                1. Cube Ninja*

                  CDC has a bit of a problem with distorting their results, unfortunately. You have to read into the actual data rather than the press release, but their survey (which doesn’t magically become good science just because the CDC paid for it) considers a teen who has EVER tried an e-cigarette as a current user. Even if they only tried it once and didn’t like it and don’t intend to smoke in the future. They still count as a user for the purpose of this study.

                  Further, the press release you linked doesn’t actually state what percentage of the “43.9 percent said they had intentions to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year” were already smokers with no intention to quit. If you remove the teens who were current smokers at the time of the study, I bet this number is very different.

                  Thus far, there isn’t any significant research that *proves* any sort of gateway link from e-cigarettes to tobacco cigarettes. In fact, the research that *is* out there on this subject supports the opposite conclusion.

                  All of this said, we’re talking about adults here, not kids. And unfortunately, public health agencies are doing a lot more harm than good of late in terms of reducing smoking rates across all demographics.

                2. fposte*

                  I’m on your side in that there’s a lot of cultural baggage behind the distaste for e-cigs, but I think if you’re going to dismiss the sources people are providing the onus is on you to provide something better. Otherwise it just sounds like resistance to research because you don’t like its conclusions.

          2. AVP*

            No, definitely not to the regular cigarettes! And I think they’re great if they help people quit smoking.

            These are 13 year olds who never smoked in the first place, though. What I meant was, I hope we don’t replace one addiction with a different (albeit less harmful) one.

            1. Joy*

              fposte,The research I believe in is that I have been using e-cigs exclusively for the past 6 years after being a 2 pack a day regular cig smoker for 31 years, and my Dr. says keep it up my lungs are clearer than he’s ever heard them , and my blood pressure is normal. In addition to my Dr. reports, I feel great, and I have reaped every benefit using e cigs as some one that just quit smoking cold turkey. That’s all the research I need to know they are harmless.

        2. Catherine in Canada*

          I’d rather teens took to vaping than smoking.
          Even if they get addicted to the nicotine and carry on with them into adulthood.

          They may not be totally “safe” (but, really, what is?) but they are safer than cigarettes. As far as I’m concerned it’s all about the harm-reduction. My husband smoked for years, tried quitting many times, tried one of these devices and threw his cigarettes away five days later. He hasn’t “smoked” for eighteen months now. His health has improved immensely (I could go on for ages here about the benefits vs drawbacks but I won’t). I find they smell like burning cupcakes or chocolate.

          I agree though, using one in the office just because you can, isn’t acceptable.

          And as for looking stupid; an addict doesn’t care how they look, and cigarette smoking looks stupid too. Stupider in my opinion.

          1. fposte*

            As Eliza Jane notes, the problem is that the lack of regulation seems to be getting teens who wouldn’t be smoking hooked on e-cigs. There still might be an overall societal benefit, but it’s not simply a cigarette vs. e-cig choice on an individual basis.

            1. Jamie*

              Some of my kids’ friends do the ecig thing – which is ridiculous imo as they never smoked so not trying to quit – but they use the non-nicotine liquid. Not sure what they could get hooked on as the one with nicotine tastes the same (per my husband) so no reason to use it over the other.

              I think everyone using them looks like the Penguin from Batman – so I don’t get it as a trend.

              1. Student*

                They say that they use the non-nicotine liquid. That doesn’t mean they don’t swap out for nicotine as soon as their parents’ backs are turned.

                1. Jamie*

                  What would be the point if they are non-smokers to begin with and the nicotine doesn’t taste any different? I don’t get the logic.

                  That’s not wearing a nic patch when you don’t need to quit smoking – why?

          2. The Wall of Creativity*

            The point is that the advertising glamorises smoking enough to make kids think of taking up proper smoking, not vaping.

  4. Michele*

    They should absolutely be banned from the office. I personally think they should be treated like any other cigarette. Outside use only.

    1. Who are you?*

      Agreed! Some of the “flavors” that people use smell just as bad as the regular cigarettes. It’s gross. Frankly I think all of it is a nasty and unattractive habit. Something about the way people hold their cigarettes in their hands and in their mouths is just so gross to me.

      1. Andrea*

        Agreed. I honestly don’t understand the issue of “glamorizing” smoking. It seems really gross to me, and I think the e-cigarettes look just as low-class as regular ones.

          1. GrumpyBoss*

            I fail to see any implications of class in that statement. Just that it looks “low-class”. Last time I checked, people in any socio-economic group can be classy or not.

            One person’s opinion does not equal classism.

            1. some1*

              It’s one person’s opinion, but it’s classist. It shows obvious bias towards a low-class because doing something gross is being equated with looking low-class.

              1. Meg*

                Low-class =/= low class.

                “Low-class” is a measure of class, having little to no class.
                “Low class” or lower class, specifically, would be socioeconomic (middle, upper as well).

            2. Andrea*

              Exactly, yes. I wasn’t commenting on socioeconomic status. Classy people show consideration and kindness toward others. Consideration and kindness are free, and I suppose maybe I am sensitive to this issue because as an asthmatic who is also allergic to smoke, I have rarely (perhaps never) received either from smokers. But regardless, IN MY OPINION, smoking–whether with traditional or e-cigarettes–is not a classy thing to do, and I don’t think it looks cool or glamorous, either. But on topic, the issue here is also one of professionalism. I think that most folks here agree that using an e-cigarette doesn’t look professional, and my original comment was just that.

            3. ScreenName*

              Classy as a descriptor is classist, though. That’s what it means, even if the connection isn’t as clear in popular use.

            1. the gold digger*

              Not necessarily. I know a lot of closet smokers who are highly educated professionals with good incomes. They are just too embarrassed to let their tolerant friends know that they smoke.

                1. badger_doc*

                  With the price of cigarettes now a days, I wonder if that’s partly causation? :-) $8 per pack in some cities!! I used to smoke when it cost $2-3 per pack.

                2. fposte*

                  No, it’s a *reverse* correlation–the lower the income level, the *greater* the percentage of smokers. The correlation stops at people earning below $5999 per year–maybe that’s how poor you have to be before economics starts cutting into your smoking, or maybe there’s a high hospitalization/elderly component there that affects it. But otherwise, ironically, the less money you make, the likelier you are to spend it on cigarettes.

                3. the gold digger*

                  Which is why cigarette taxes are so unfair – they hit lower-income people disproportionately.

                  (And yes, you are correct that a few higher-income smokers do not disprove the point. I think they should come out of the smoking closet.)

                1. Jamie*

                  Absolutely – although I really hate the use of the word class in this context.

                  People will hide a lot of things which isn’t socially acceptable to their peer group.

                  I have never had a cigarette around my kids, or any family member. When I smoked it was alone in my car only – a couple a day. One on the way to work window way down and held out as much as possible and mostly on the way home.

                  And I would sit there like a freaking hypocrite and agree with them when they would lecture their dad about quitting.

                  A while after I quit smoking one of my work friends mentioned it and tptb were shocked I had smoked – I didn’t get a lecture about smoking until months after I’d quit because they didn’t know. I guess I don’t get that close to people – the couple of people who knew only knew because we’d gone out for drinks after work years ago when you could still smoke outside at bars.

                  When we had company cook outs where all the smokers would be in one corner of the yard lighting up no way in hell would I have joined in.

                  People keep a lot of things to themselves to protect their image.

                2. Heatherbrarian*

                  I know I am coming in *amazingly* late on this but people smoking out of their car windows is one of my massive pet peeves (like, will cause more road rage in me than tailgaters pet peeve) so I just had to say something.

                  I know Jamie is a kind and caring person and I’m betting that she did this without thinking about the impact on the people around her, and I’m sure that many other smokers similarly just don’t think about this, so I don’t intend this as an attack or anything like that. But if a smoker is reading and you do this, please stop. You’re preventing your car and maybe your clothes from smelling, yes, but what you’re also doing is making sure that for several cars behind you, everyone who had their windows down and was enjoying a drive on a beautiful day has to roll all of their windows up and turn the recirculator on so they don’t inhale carcinogens. It’s just as inconsiderate as smoking right outside the door to a building, or anywhere where lots of other people have to come through the area. Yes, smoking is a smelly habit. If you’re going to smoke, you need to deal with the stench instead of exposing other people to it (and wrecking my nice drive to boot). If you don’t like the way you or your car smell when you smoke in the car with the windows up? Don’t smoke in the car.


      2. TL*

        Honestly, I don’t think the issue is about whether or not it looks gross (which varies from person to person), but about how it affects the others around you and maybe professionalism.
        It’s generally agreed that offensive smells are to be avoided in the office and also things that are harmful to others. So cigarettes are out. E-cigs, if they’re offensive smelling are also out. (And the problems of differentiating between regular and e-cigs, especially if it’s in a health care or safety-important facility.)

        1. Jamie*

          This. I think it looks silly, but whether something looks gross or not depends on the individual. I think most people look gross when they eat but people continue to do it.

          Seriously – my list of what I find gross about people if enforced would be so prohibitive few would be allowed to leave their houses!

          (and I took out my opinion about the class discussion above because I’m a rule follower – but I wanted points for being a rule follower because that is hard for me to skate over!)

          1. TL*

            Haha, I was actually thinking of you when I posted that! There are so many things that you’ve said gross you out that I wouldn’t bat an eye out – we’re definitely at opposite ends of the spectrum here.

    2. Rebecca*

      And I wish there was a 50′ from the building rule with the outside part. I went for a walk during my morning break period, only to come back to 7 people crowding the door smoking away. I went around the building to another door rather than walk through the gauntlet.

      1. TL*

        50′?! Most places have a 5-15′ rule. I’m pretty sure that you can’t get 50′ from a building in my city without actually leaving the city or going into a park.

        1. TL*

          (And by “most places” I mean “universities and hospitals where I’ve attended/worked/learned about their policies through some means.

      2. OhNo*

        Man, I wish there was such a rule where I work, too.

        After complaints from a lot of people, they finally moved the “official” smoking area well away from the main doors… but absolutely none of the smokers actually walk that far. Most of them hover within ten feet of the door. And when it rains, they are all huddled under the overhang so I have to squeeze past half a dozen waving cigarettes to get in the door.

        I wish I could go around to another entrance, but that’s the only wheelchair-accessible one on that side of the building. I don’t think I’d even mind the smell so much if it weren’t for the fact that, because I’m lower than the standing smokers, everyone’s lit cigarette is waving about right at the level of my face and shoulders.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          That right there is, according to a friend of mine who used to work there, among the reasons why the Disney parks moved several years ago from allowing smoking in most, if not all, outdoor spaces to allowing it only in (a few very small) rigidly defined smoking areas. It’s true that practically the whole place is outdoors; but it’s also true that a not-insignificant percentage of their guest population is quite a bit shorter than the average adult. It’s all fun and games until a little kid gets a lit cigarette in the eye.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’m glad I live in Washington State. Smoking is prohibited in most businesses and ‘the Smoking in Public Places law also prohibits smoking within 25 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited.’

        1. Broke Philosopher*

          I have never seen that rule enforced in Seattle. People stand directly outside of bars, restaurants, and stores and smoke. Sometimes they step a couple feet from the doorway so that the owner can’t see them. I think I had more smoke blown in my face in Seattle than in any place I had ever lived. Not sure why people there are such smokers–they are otherwise so young and healthy! Ok, end tangent.

          1. Anna*

            That’s because it’s one of those laws for show only. If a smoker were to follow the letter of the law, the only place they could reasonably go to smoke in Seattle (or any city, really) would be the middle of the street and then they’d probably get dinged on some “car window” technicality. I’m not a huge fan of walking through smoke and I prefer people who do smoke to do it one place on the sidewalk instead of walking down the sidewalk because I will invariably get stuck behind them. However, I’m also uninterested in spending a lot of time being a jerk to them for their choice. As far as using an e-cigarette at your desk, that is weird and is no different than smoking at your desk (although less smelly, one could argue). It’s no different than lighting a scented candle at your desk, in my mind. It’s pleasant for some, unpleasant for others, and weird for everyone.

  5. Elkay*

    It sounds a bit like they fall into the “offensive odors” category along with scented candles and joss sticks (although without the fire risk). Lots of offices are going to have to tweak their policies with e-cigarettes becoming more popular.

    1. Demeter*

      Perhaps this is my chance to institute an air freshener and perfume ban in my office – they bother me just as much as cigarettes!

  6. Elizabeth*

    We consider them in the same class as other nicotine delivery devices, such as cigarettes, cigars & chewing tobacco. The only nicotine consumption allowed by state law on our property is a patch or gum, and then only with a doctor’s prescription.

    1. PEBCAK*

      That’s interesting…I chewed the gum for a while, and never with a doctor’s prescription. I wonder if I was inadvertently violating a state law, because it never even would have occurred to me that it would be banned.

          1. some1*

            It seems pretty crappy to force your employees to get a prescription for it, though, when that’s not necessary.

            1. fposte*

              I think the point wasn’t that you could get a prescription for it to skirt the workplace ban (my guess is that Elizabeth’s workplace banned the patch as well–I think it was mentioned here in a previous discussion), it’s that if you have a prescription for it you can get it free (or lower cost). That’s not uncommon, and it’s why a lot of people will get OTC medication prescribed.

              1. Jamie*

                I would definitely recommend getting a script if your insurance covers it – those of you using them. It was one of the methods my husband tried before the ecig and they were crazy expensive OTC but only $5 a box through our insurance.

  7. Natalie*

    Yeah, this seems like a no-brainer to me, and I smoke (still, argh). Probably partially generational, but I find it extra weird to smoke or vape inside.

  8. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    I think it’s totally OK to amend policies to include e-cigs being outside only. I think another approach could be that you’re not allowed to use them in client areas, or if they produce a significant smell (a lot don’t, but a lot do). I don’t think it necessarily makes sense to treat them the same as regular cigarettes, because the smell, and level of smell, are dramatically different (a strong menthol smell versus something that smells like tobacco being set on fire), but if a workplace has policies about scented things, I think it makes sense to include it there (and use the same general discretion: ‘if my fellow workers hate the smell I’m creating, I should probably stop creating it’).

    1. Jamie*

      (and use the same general discretion: ‘if my fellow workers hate the smell I’m creating, I should probably stop creating it’).

      This really needs to be stitched on a sampler and hung in every office. Well said.

      (unless that means no air freshners in the bathroom – because a bathroom left to it’s own natural devices when it comes to order is a hostile work environment in my opinion.

  9. Cube Ninja*

    “because studies show that toxins can be present in the exhaled vapor, and many people report that they aggravate their allergies.”

    The latter part is valid – the flavor components used can definitely do this.

    Regarding studies – let’s reality check this one.

    The primary studies opponents of vaping point to are based on a single study conducted in 2009 using devices that aren’t prevalent in today’s world. Current research is leaning in the other direction – that the levels of any concerning chemical components are dramatically less than combustible cigarettes and that the exhaled vapor presents little to no risk (outside of potential allergies) to others.

    Here’s something that’s peer reviewed and much more recent:

    To put it succinctly, in order for a bystander to absorb the equivalent nicotine of one cigarette, they would have to stand in a environment saturated with second hand vapor for twelve (12) days. Any potential toxins that exist in second hand vapor are in such small quantity as to be largely irrelevant – you’ll inhale more toxins from car exhaust walking down a busy street.

    Is it appropriate to use an e-cigarette at work? If your employer allows it, sure. Should most employers allow it? I don’t know – that’s largely up to them if they aren’t under a state or local law banning it. White collar jobs, probably not, but I do know of a few offices who allow vaping indoors.

    1. Eliza Jane*

      There’s actually been a news spike recently about the present of toxic metals in secondhand e-cigarette smoke (primarily chromium and nickel) which are probably coming off of the cartridge of the device. Basically, the takeaway is, yeah, they’re safer than cigarettes, and a lot of the things we dislike about cigarettes are minimized by e-cigarettes, but safer doesn’t mean totally safe.

      1. Cube Ninja*

        The “toxic metals” argument is largely based on that same 2009 CDC study – some of the older styles of e-cigs used a more traditional heating element involving solder points (which is likely the source for the metals). I recall seeing a more recent one in which they attributed the results to the cartridge itself.

        Unfortunately, a lot of what’s being pushed in the media completely disregards the benefit to public health. It also, oddly enough, disregards that anyone besides big tobacco (and maybe NJOY) sell vaping products. :)

        1. Natalie*

          I suspect e-cigarettes are a benefit to public health on the whole, but I don’t think that means we need to let people use them indoors. There was a point when no one was particularly concerned about tobacco smoking, or secondhand tobacco smoke, and look how that turned out.

          Since most smokers are accustomed to going outside to smoke anyway (at least at work), going outside to use an e-cig doesn’t seem like much of a change. And we don’t run the risk of discovering some harm to indoor vaping 20 years from now and going through this whole indoor air quality mess again.

    2. Stryker*

      You know, I was wondering when someone would call out the whole studies thing. The fact is, I’m not sure they’ve been out long enough to have a decent book of research on them for anyone to say one way or the other that they’re damaging to health.

      But I’ll agree with you on the aggravating allergies and their potential ban from the workplace because of that. I had a roommate who went ballistic whenever I sprayed Fabreeze in our dormroom during the winter because it gave her a headache. I’m pretty sure Fabreeze is non-toxic…

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, perfume is non-toxic as well, but when I walk through that part of the department store it feels like I’ve been kicked in the chest and I can hardly breathe. Strong scents and fumes are not good for my asthma.

        1. Simonthegrey*

          My mother can’t walk past candle-shops, even ones that use essential oils and are made from beeswax (We sell at renaissance faires and there are such things). Anything that smells strongly makes her feel sick and headachey. It has nothing to do with toxins really, but everything to do with how sensitive she is to smell.

          1. Windchime*

            Yes, candles can affect me the same way, but usually only if I am already having asthma symptoms. When I’m feeling sensitive, any little thing–even air blowing directly in my face–can set me off.

      2. Clerica*

        Given how long it took for things like asbestos, lead, etc to be banned, and how long it took even just to put warning labels on regular cigarettes, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to blindly trust in something until the pile of studies reaches some arbitrary goal.

  10. Gina*

    I’m not feeling well today and it could be affecting my mood, but I don’t think many people are dumb enough to believe ecigs are a totally free ride and carry no risks, but they’re using them in a place where traditional smoking is banned simply because a rule hasn’t been put into place yet. It just makes me a little mad that you have to wait for a rule to be written about every aspect of everything instead of people just being considerate.

    1. Mike C.*

      Nothing is a free ride and carries no risk. There is not one substance out there where enough of it will in some way harm or kill you.

    2. Elizabeth*

      My husband uses an e-cigarette to quit smoking. He doesn’t do so indoors where other people could be annoyed by the scent, but he DOES use it in areas outdoors that aren’t specifically smoking areas, even though smoking is prohibited except in those designated areas. However, I personally agree with his reasoning which is 1) as long as he does so away from doors and windows, the scent disappears long before it reaches anyone, 2) the exhaled vapor has little to no toxins, certainly FAR less than the car exhaust from the street a few feet away, and 3) he’s trying to quite smoking, so standing in a confined area with a bunch of people smoking cigarettes is almost guaranteed to make him give in and start up again.

      So my opinion is that it shouldn’t be treated “exactly” like normal cigarettes if you’re in an area that has pretty strong restrictions on them (such as only in specifically designated areas even outside), but certainly keeping it outside and away from doorways and windows is reasonable.

  11. Ann Furthermore*

    My husband and I both smoke, although we’ve been trying to quit on and off for the last year. He asked his doctor about e-cigs, and his doctor gave a very common sense answer: he was waiting to see what the research said to know for sure, but from what he’d learned they’re not risk free, but certainly much better than the real thing.

    I would never dream of using an e-cig at my desk. I find it hard to believe that this is even an argument. They do have varying levels of nicotine, and the idea (or the original idea) was that you could start out with the strongest level and wean yourself off, eventually dropping down to zero.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve had the most success with the patch, but if I am in a hurry one morning and forget to put one on, I’m completely derailed.

    1. FRRibs*

      Have you thought about wellbutrin? When my doc put me on that it was like a light switch; I literally recived no enjoyment at all from smoking, finished out a pack and haven’t even had the slightest urge to smoke in at least a year.

  12. jj*

    I’m a smoker and I don’t like the smell of the e-cigarette either. I agree that they shouldn’t be used in an office.

  13. Treena Kravm*

    Public health person chiming in–the co-worker did *not* quit smoking! She is still smoking, just using a different device! E-cigarettes are not considered quit aids by the FDA and they are completely unregulated and have no safety standards. They’re labeled any which way in terms of how much nicotine is in them, but when measured, the levels are all over the map, which is not only misleading the consumer, but can be dangerous.

    1. B*

      She is now vaping, not smoking. UK public health people are mostly cautiously in favour of vaping over smoking. E

    2. the_scientist*

      Another public health person chiming in here to +2 this comment! There is still too much we don’t know about ecigs, and the fact that they are unregulated means that nobody but the manufacturer *really* knows what is in them. Certainly not something that you should be forced to be exposed to at work.

        1. Eden*

          Oh, man. My ex-husband’s old boss used to wear like an entire bottle of cologne, AND he was a hugger–a deadly combo! I will heartily agree to no strong smells in the workplace. I practically keel over, and I’m not asthmatic, or allergic.

          I loved the comment someone made on here (wish I’d thought of it)–we should tell Rob that there’s more than one application per bottle of cologne.

    3. Cube Ninja*

      Not a public health person here, but by definition, an individual using an e-cigarette is not smoking – there is no smoke cannot exist without combustion.

      Amusingly enough, the e-liquid I use daily has fewer ingredients than a Nicorette inhaler.

    4. Elizabeth*

      Umm, yes, she did quit smoking. She is still using a substance that provides nicotine, but that’s not the same thing as smoking. “Smoking is the inhalation of the smoke of burning tobacco encased in cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.” E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco. Whether or not we know the consequences of using e-cigarettes and debating the safety and standards aside, they are simply not the same thing.

  14. Tinker*

    As far as harm reduction I think these things are great — the trick is that folks seem to think that since they’re not burning something, they can just blithely take the device anywhere. The LARP events I go to have a fairly strict tobacco policy, and yet about every other event it seems there’s someone hanging out in the middle of the NPC house puffing away on one of the darn things until they get corrected.

    IME they produce an odor that is somewhat similar to the clothes of a relatively clean conventional smoker or perhaps somewhat less clean chewing tobacco user. I’m guessing, because I noticed the odor and thought it was brought in on someone’s clothes, but then it went away after the e-cig was banished from the realm. It’s not something I’d care to be stuck in a room with all day, and I’m given to understand that at least one member of our regular team is allergic to some component of the vapor.

    I’m not necessarily 100% against scents in the workplace, but I think anything that introduces a pervasive odor to the air is generally crossing the line.

    1. Jamie*

      The odor really does vary depending on what they are using. I’ve been around some which are quite strong and unpleasant and if my husband used those he’d be banished to the deck as when he was smoking – but some have a very mild smell and you have to be up on top to notice.

      I have a very sensitive sense of smell – I can smell a knife in the sink with wet peanut butter on it from across the house through a closed door (not kidding) or when people 2 houses away are making pancakes (if windows are open) – but there are definitely some types of liquid I can’t smell at all unless I’m in an enclosed car. And then they smell like mild candy – I get stronger smells from someone chewing gum.

      I’m not saying they are risk free, and certainly not advocating people should be able smoke where and whenever – but just pointing out that there are certainly kinds out there that don’t give off the smell you describe or leave it on clothing, etc.

      1. stellanor*

        The guy who used to sit in the cube next to mine vaped almost constantly and smelled like a candy factory. A cheap, crappy candy factory. It was annoying and disruptive but he moved desks before I got annoyed enough to tell him to knock it off.

        I have, however, read him the riot act for vaping in conference rooms.

  15. Just Visiting*

    I use an e-cigarette, though would never dream of using it at work. However, if people are really going to band together under the “it smells bad” banner, then they’d have to be willing to give up their perfumes, potpourri, and anything else that emits a scent. One woman’s rose is another woman’s latrine, and I can guarantee you that whatever comes out of my e-cig smells better (and is arguably just as toxic as) than perfumes some people slather themselves in. I also highly doubt that anyone would have a problem with the smell without the visual trigger of the cigarette to remind them “oh, I should think that smells bad.” Although I do agree that you shouldn’t use them at work.

    1. JMegan*

      Re the “it smells bad banner” (lol!), most places I’ve worked have specific bans on perfumes and scented shampoos etc, because so many people have allergies or sensitivities or what have you. Workplaces in general seem to be moving to a “no artificial scents” culture, whether or not there is an official policy in place – I imagine the discussions of e-cigarettes would be pretty short if they ever did come up.

      1. Tinker*

        Agreed. I actually feel like a bit of an outlier / outlaw / daredevil in that I think that in the absence of specific concerns (serving a vulnerable population, being around people with known issues, or an existing policy against) that the use of personal scent products follows the Ninja Rule: many things may lurk in the shadows, providing that they remain undetected. With regard to scenting a room, either through products that are intended to do that or through overapplication of personal scent, I’m with what seems like the majority in saying: unless you are an occult bookstore, NOEP.

        (I do also have that tiny little twitch of annoyance that it would be nice if I could go to an occult bookstore and buy a book that I didn’t have to air out for a week before I can read it, being as Nag Champa gives me headaches. I would also like a pony.)

        1. Natalie*

          I’m a big fan of the old line (possibly Miss Manners? probably not) that a gentleman’s cologne should never enter the room before he does. Extended, obv, to anyone wearing a fragrance.

          1. Liane*

            As I recall, this wise lady applied the advice to both genders–and also stated that such fragrances should not linger once the fragrance wearer left the room. :)

            1. stellanor*

              Personally I believe I shouldn’t be able to smell someone’s fragrance from a normal conversational distance. I should have to go in for a hug to notice you’ve got something on.

              I knew a guy in college who wore so much aftershave it made my eyes water from five feet away. Oof.

    2. Anon*

      I do think that the spraying of perfumes or scented products in a shared-air office should be banned, as should wearing perfume so strong that someone can smell it from their own desk (or when next to you at a meeting).

      If it’s a dab of perfume or something else that someone can’t smell until they’re in your personal space, then it isn’t really comparable to e-cigs as people can clearly smell those from much further away. I have fragrance allergies and I don’t care if someone wears perfume that I can only smell from a few inches away – no one is forcing me to be that close to any of my coworkers. I do care if it’s so strong that I cannot avoid it and still do my job (i.e. it’s overpowering even from across the table at a meeting or wafts over to my desk – I can’t just leave a meeting or my desk so you are forcing it on me).

  16. Jess*

    Somewhat related…

    I work as a server in a bar/restaurant in New York City with a large outside area. I tell plenty of people all the time that they can’t smoke in the restaurant’s area and they get very annoyed with me. They often use as a defense that no one else is in the outside area at the time. I try to tell them politely that the law was in fact meant to protect employees–like me–from being exposed to second hand smoke at work, not other patrons. This is a revelation for some people and they say, wow, you’re right, that’s true! Others don’t seem to care and are offended at the suggestion that I might want to protect myself. It’s kind of exasperating.

    NYC has banned e-cigs in bars and restaurants, as well, but my bosses don’t enforce this rule and I won’t get support if I try to so it’s not a battle that I fight, unfortunately.

  17. Eden*

    I don’t know that you can say, “E-cigarettes smell like X,” when there are literally thousands of ‘flavors’ and differing manufacturers.

    It bears noting also that we are not necessarily comparing apples to apples when talking about e-cigs–there’s a world of difference between those cheesy plastic things they sell at gas stations and the reusable chambered kind sold by e-liquid retailers.

    My husband gave up smoking for vaping and is down to the lowest milligram concentration of nicotine his vendor makes. The vapor from his e-liquid smells pleasant to me, actually, not much of a smell at all, it’s like a very faint smell of honey. And you can’t smell it at all from a few feet away, unlike conventional cigarettes. Of course, this is his specific setup, not a generalization. He doesn’t vape in public (indoors, at any rate), because he’s worried about bothering other people–I agree that this should be the norm.

    I’m annoyed by the comments that people look ‘stupid’ vaping–my feeling is that this is MYOB territory. I definitely feel that people get the ‘addictive’ gene to varying degrees, and you’re only allowed to judge if you’re in the same category.

    1. Just Visiting*

      I think high heels look stupid and I worry about the orthopedic health of women who use them but other people’s footwear is not my call to make. (Although, isn’t it telling that a piece of clothing that is provably harmful to women’s health is seen as a mark of professionalism whereas a medical device for which the jury is still out is considered “low-class”?) A lot of these comments are branching out from the workplace and commenting on the “classiness” or lack thereof of e-cigarette smokers. Some people are really showing their stripes.

      1. Clerica*

        To be fair, for many years we’ve been trying to counter the old media messages that smoking made you look cool. I’d rather smoking in any form still be seen as unattractive than to be too afraid to condemn it for fear of sounding classist. (Since “the jury” is notoriously slow to come back with a guilty verdict until a ton of damage is already done, I’m erring on the side of caution when it comes to vaporizers causing health issues).

        1. fposte*

          It’s not just media messages, though–smokers do tend to have a higher participation in activities that are generally considered cool. I think the problem is “cool” itself.

          1. FRRibs*

            I’m a biker, and I occasionally encounter a certain subset of bikers who smoke WHILE riding. To each his own, but riding while shoving an ash-dispensor in your face in close proximity to your eyes and riding at a speed that would burn a cigarette to nothing in a mile is an affectation I don’t understand; then again, there are a high percentage of ridiculously image-consious folks in our demographic.

        2. Just Visiting*

          My point is that many things we do to look cool, or professional, or whatever, carry health risks. High heels absolutely cause orthopedic damage, but in certain industries they’re almost mandatory for women. The fact that smoking/vaping is considered “low class” yet high heels are considered “attractive and professional” is absolutely the result of classism as well as sexism (it’s okay to endanger women’s health if it makes us look slightly hotter).

          We’ve been trying to make cigarettes uncool for at least thirty years now, it’s obviously not working. The entire millennial generation grew up without ever seeing a cigarette on TV or in an age-appropriate movie, was heavily indoctrinated against smoking all throughout school, and they still smoke. Rates have declined for sure, but not at the rate they should be considering how bad the correlation is between smoking and health. Maybe it’s time to figure out how to make smoking safer instead, or replace it with a similar kind of social activity. E-cigarettes probably aren’t 100% safe, but they’re safER and fulfill the same social role.

          Of course I am still in favor of banning them at work. Hell, if you can smoke at work that means you can’t partake in smoke breaks, so what’s the point? :)

          1. FRRibs*

            Easiest way to reduce the number of smokers: prevent manufacturers from overloading cigarettes with nicotine. It’s a heck of a lot to stop using an affectation than it is to break a strong chemical addiction.

    2. some1*

      Ditto your last paragraph. Like the old joke goes, quitting smoking is easy; that’s why I’ve done it so many times. I have all the respect in the world for people who are trying to quit, I don’t think they deserve contempt.

    3. ali*

      agreed. My husband has started making his own liquids for his vape, and some of them smell absolutely delicious. He’s got a chocolate-covered cherry flavor that is fantastic smelling. My biggest problem is that when I smell them it usually leaves me craving candy.

      I will let him do it in our house with certain flavors, but he doesn’t do it indoors anywhere else and will always ask me if it’s okay first (I have an extremely sensitive nose).

    4. Eden*

      My husband got one flavor once that, no kidding, smelled like ferret. If you’ve had or been around ferrets, you know what I’m talking about. Again, it wasn’t a strong smell, but I’d catch whiffs and be kind of yucked out (not a huge ferret fan–they can be nice animals but are too kind of greasy for me). I was so glad when he used up the ‘ferret flavor’ liquid.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I’ve encountered ones that smelled like weed. I’d be wondering “…do I smell weed in here?” in a context where weed really doesn’t belong, and it turned out to be someone’s vape.

    5. Bender B Rodriguez*

      My s.o. uses nicotine-free liquid in his vaporizer, and is making a hobby of customizing flavors. My grandmother thinks the concept is stupid, and has said so in front of my s.o., but I don’t believe she knows he partakes. (I doubt she knows, since she’s not a rude person and would not passive-aggressively say “people look stupid when they do that thing you do”.) My father once expressed contempt as we walked past an e-cig store, and I remarked, “Well they don’t all have nicotine in them. The ones [s.o.] uses are just propylene glycol and flavor.”

      My s.o. used to smoke, but by the time we started dating three years ago he was smoking so rarely, he officially quit when I asked him about it. His take on using the nicotine-free electronic cigarette is that just the act of inhalation and exhalation is calming, and his primary reason for smoking in the first place was for stress relief. I don’t mind it, especially since his favourite flavors include caramel and banana, as opposed to tobacco or rotting garbage.

      1. Dmented Kitty*

        Same as my husband. I asked him why he doesn’t do patches or gum — he says gum tastes horrible, and patches take a while to get absorbed by the brain. eCigs for him gives him almost the same immediate “kick” as regular cigarettes do, minus the tar and the smelly smoke that takes way longer to dissipate.

        And smokers who quit still do like to have something in their hands to keep busy, as well as just the act of putting a “cigarette” in their mouth gives a calming effect on them.

  18. Allison*

    I have no problem with offices banning e-cigs, but then again I have asthma so that may make me a bit biased. Aside from an outright ban, I could also see an office telling employees they can smoke e-cigs inside as long as their manager/team/neighbors don’t have an issue with it, but the second you’re asked to take it outside, you need to take it outside. I could also see an office saying they’re generally okay, but not around clients or prospective candidates.

    This does seem similar to the discussions we’ve had around perfume – whether it should be banned, or could be banned, and again I think it depends on the workplace, but I also see this as a consideration issue; just like you’d wear just enough perfume so it’s pleasant, but not so much that the person next to you has to breathe it in all day, and you’d refrain from eating super smelly foods in the office, you’d also take your e-cig smoking outside if you knew it bothered people.

    1. Cube Ninja*

      Here’s a funny thing – a standard albuterol inhaler isn’t so different from an e-cigarette – propylene glycol is found very commonly in pharma applications as a carrier base for other medication.

      1. Is it Performance Art*

        Well, except for the active ingredient. Nicotine can cause or worsen bronchospasms, and albuterol reduces them.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    And while we’re at it – chewing tobacco. There’s nothing grosser than stumbling across someone’s spit bottle. Ugh.

    1. Jamie*

      Is this allowed in any workplace? Granted I’ve only worked with one person who used this, but he always had to go outside with the smokers. I’ve never seen it – but maybe it’s just not a thing where I am.

      I have noticed that smokers are becoming few and far between. A couple of years ago there was a more significant minority of smokers – but now I’m always surprised to learn someone smokes. The tide really has turned on that.

      1. Natalie*

        I doubt it’s really allowed anywhere, but some people probably hide it (or think they’re hiding it).

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Yep. It’s not allowed, of course, but I knew guys at university who would dip and spit in class. God, it was disgusting–but they think they’re camouflaging it by lifting a cup to their mouth every other minute.

          1. Bender B Rodriguez*

            S.O. had a classmate in I think high school (but god I hope I’m being forgetful and it was in college) who came to class daily with an empty soda bottle and chewing tobacco. By the end of class, the bottle was full of tobacco spit.

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              I had two classmates in JUNIOR HIGH who used spit tobacco into bottles or cans every class after lunch.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Yes! I had a classmate in college who did that. He spit into an opaque water bottle and I think he thought no one could tell. The liquid is going out instead of in, and you are making a spitting sound! We can tell.

      2. Judy*

        I certainly worked at a place in the 90s where the smokers had to smoke outdoors, but people did chew at their desks. I’ve not seen that since that job, but I’m not sure if that has to do with region of the US or changing times. (I spent a few years after college not in the mid-west, 12 hours southwest of here.)

      3. KerryOwl*

        We have a chewer in our workplace. He’s supposed to only do it when he’s within his actual office. I’m in New Jersey, if anyone is curious.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve always wondered if chewing/dipping was more prevalent in different regions. Grew up with several people who did it, especially dip. In junior high and high school a lot of boys [and some girls] dipped and I think it was even allowed at school up to a point. Unfortunately, there was a widespread belief for a long time that it was less dangerous than smoking cigarettes.

          I grew up in a southern-bordering area that was predominantly rural. Dip and chew kind of went along with big trucks, hunting, cowboy hats/boots, that kind of stuff.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I see it a lot with military/former military. In Iraq it seemed like EVERYONE chewed – especially contractors. Then again I can forgive someone a vice or two in Iraq.

            1. Witty Nickname*

              My dad dipped. He was a southern military recruiter. Heh.

              It was so gross. He used a soda can instead of a spit bottle and it was really disgusting whenever anyone picked up the wrong can. And he used to leave his spit can in my car, in the hot sun, all day. I still think that is the grossest smell ever.

              1. De Minimis*

                My cousin is career military and I don’t know if he still dips but he did all through high school and young adulthood, and I know at some point family members were sending him dip in the mail when he was deployed overseas.

                He’s got a family and I really hope he has quit by now, if not he’s done it for well over 20 years.

          2. Windchime*

            One of my sons recently quit dipping. He started when he was 16, so he had done it for roughly 10 years. He recently was able to quit with a prescription, but he said it was the hardest thing he has ever done in his life and he knows that he can’t ever have any nicotine again in his life, in any form. It’s that addictive.

          3. the gold digger*

            I went to high school in Central America – an American school – and never saw anyone chewing. Of course, I saw people smoking because there was a smokers’ area at my high school.

            I moved to Texas my senior year of high school and there was a designated chewing/spitting area at the school. It was by this beautiful live oak. The bark was almost dead and all the grass around the tree was dead.

            The chewing/spitting area was not to be confused with the smoking area.

            To this day, I think it’s odd to see the backside of a pair of Wranglers that don’t have the faded outline of a circle of snuff.

            1. De Minimis*

              The classic “Skoal ring.”

              We had a “smoking area” at my high school when I was a freshman, although I think they might have abolished it by my senior year, I can’t really remember. I think you were supposed to be 18 or whatever the legal age for cigarettes was then to be allowed to smoke, but I don’t believe anyone really tried to police that.

              I remember our principal saying that most of the water fountains no longer worked and he wasn’t going to fix them. “You can thank the Skoal dippers for that.”

      4. Elizabeth West*

        At Exjob, there were two people in the office who chewed. They used spit bottles. No one said anything. I thought it was the grossest thing ever, but I smoked for the first two years I was there, so I couldn’t say anything. We did have a smoking room but they banned it after a while because you couldn’t keep the smell completely out of the break room. So we had to go outside. I quit not long after that, using Chantix. Most places ban the spit bottles or cups because they not only are aesthetically displeasing, but they stink.

      5. De Minimis*

        I used to work at the Post Office, at the facility where the mail was sorted–apparently employees were allowed to smoke at their workstations until the late 80s–and I think they quit allowing it mainly due to risk of fire more than anything else.

    2. Tinker*

      Used to work with a guy who disposed of his used chewing tobacco in empty soft drink cans. We both favored Diet Dr. Pepper.

      1. Natalie*

        Newsradio used this in an episode once. Bill starts chewing instead of smoking, and he uses a regular coffee cup for his spit. Dave almost drinks it. Hilarity ensues, mostly because of Dave Foley’s solid face-acting.

    3. Clever Name*

      I’ll never forget being in a meeting where the person leading the meeting took out a can of chew and stuck it in his mouth–mid-sentence. He apparently just ingested the juice, because he never spit, which I guess was nice? The instant my coworker and I got into the car afterwards, we both turned to each other and exclaimed, “Ohmigosh did you notice Soandso put chew in his mouth during the meeting!!” We still talk about that guy.

      Regarding e-cigs in the office, I’d probably have the same reaction that I did to a person chewing in an office. Don’t be that guy/gal.

    4. Andrea*

      Years ago, I worked at a bank as a deposit counselor. One of my coworkers, Joe, chewed tobacco, but I had never (knowingly) been around someone who did that, so I didn’t realize it. I never saw him spit, but then again, we never really worked that closely together, either. Joe was a really nice guy, but he wasn’t very good at his job, and would often tell people that their accounts included free features that were not free at all, and inevitably, they would come in angry and yell at us when Joe was conveniently unavailable. Or they would give a teller a deposit for an account number that didn’t exist because he hadn’t opened the account properly, stuff like that. Repeatedly, the same mistakes. Anyway, I noticed sometimes that it seemed like he talked differently or that he had something in his mouth, but I just assumed it was gum or a cough drop, and I didn’t give it much thought. One day the assistant manager asked me privately if I knew anything about Joe “dipping in” at work because he had heard rumors. And I was really taken aback, and I said that no, I did not believe that Joe would steal, and that I didn’t particularly like working with him because he made a lot of the same mistakes, over and over, which other people had to fix for him, but that I didn’t think it was right to spread rumors that could hurt his reputation and anyway, was there even any money missing? When my manager finally finished laughing at me, he wiped tears from his eyes and explained that he meant “dipping chewing tobacco” not “dipping into the till.”

    5. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Chew is the WORST. It is 100% scientifically verifiably gross. I think that there’s miles of difference between your average e-cig use and your average (or even clean) chew use. Maybe it’s because vapor goes up in the air and tends to not linger, while chew produces liquid and solid grossness that must be spit out and disposed of? Anyway, the three methods (cigs, e-cigs, chew) are so different that it seems silly to have a single policy covering all of them (unless it also covers, as many have mentioned, perfume, cleaners, desk fans that make small amounts of noise, etc).

    6. OhNo*

      Oh god in heaven, YES. My brother chews and leaves his spit cups EVERYWHERE and it is the most disgusting thing in the world. It’s worse when I’m doing dishes and I pick up a cup I knew was empty yesterday, and accidentally dump gross tobacco spit on myself.


      I’m one of those people that think tobacco – whether smoked, chewed, or turned into chemicals and vaporized – should be banned entirely, so I know I’m on the outskirts opinion-wise. But some things are just universally disgusting, and leaving your contaminated spit everywhere is one of them.

      1. Natalie*

        “accidentally dump gross tobacco spit on myself.”

        I think you are within your rights to use his clothing or bedding as a towel in this event. At a bare minimum.

    7. short geologist*

      Ugh. I have drillers who chew and they’re constantly spitting. I’d much rather have a pile of cigarettes around the drill rig that they can shovel/sweep up later, rather than have little brownish gobs all over the place. And once I see where they’ve been spitting, I can’t un-see.

  20. My Two Cents...*

    Are e-cigs ‘less’ smelly? Yup. Hands down, I would rather catch a whiff of the most obnoxious flavor/scent of e-cig juice than a traditional cigarette. Are they less annoying? yes and no… The vapor takes a while to dissipate (esp in high humidity conditions), and the smell can linger for a while.

    i think they’re great for use in 1. rental cars (no perm damage) 2. open outdoor patios 3. taxis (with the window cracked to offload the visible vapor)

    there’s too many knuckleheads that LOVE to puff away on their e-cig where ever they are. but, it’d be a different story entirely if the coworker just stepped away to the bathroom to e-puff in peace and just let the air clear. while i know this violates no smoking policies, it just seems like the path of least confrontation.

  21. Windchime*

    Add my company to the list of workplaces that ban e-cigarettes. It’s a part of our updated tobacco-free workplace policy.

  22. scott*

    Ok, Great, so another reason for a freebie break. But god forbid if while johnny black lungs is out having a smoke, someone sees you checking the local weather on your laptop. In my opinion smoking and a nicotine dependency should be screened out of the workplace just like alcoholism and drug use is.

    1. Jamie*

      Why screen for that when you can just control workplace behavior with policy and equal breaks.

      I don’t smoke – but I used to. Never at work, never took a smoke break. Very few of the people with whom I work still smoke, but those that do do so on their regular breaks or normal lunch – no one goes out to just grab a cigarette. It’s not done here. It would be frowned upon far more than anyone taking a little internet break – which no one cares about at all as long as productivity doesn’t suffer.

      A work place can and should enforce whatever rules (even unwritten) for breaks fairly – if they want to let some go out and have a smoke then others should be able to take a fresh air break, or Angry Birds break, or whatever – of equal time. And if there is a smell issue address that.

      But your drawing a false equivalency. There are plenty of people who smoke who don’t do it on the clock – so smokers just as there are certainly some who use it as an excuse to slack and lousy managers who allow that to happen. But the intersection between smokers and slackers is a Venn not a Euler diagram.

        1. Jamie*

          I wouldn’t think so – and I’ve never known a company to screen for alcohol use anyway. Strict policies about drinking on the clock for sure – but I’ve never worked anywhere that cared about drinking in our personal lives.

        2. scott*

          I have, every time I start a new major assignment (by that I mean I’d be going to a new job site for several months at a time, and the client issues the test). when I go to get a urine test, the nurse uses a breathalyzer on me. the idea is that if I’m an alcoholic, I can’t hold alcohol off that long during the day.

          1. fposte*

            As I said, that’s a test for alcohol use. If you’re an alcoholic in a dry spell the test doesn’t catch you, and it catches a non-alcoholic who happened to drink. Alcoholism the disease has been judged to be protected by the ADA, which is why I’m differentiating–you can’t fire somebody for having alcoholism, but you can fire somebody for alcohol use.

            1. scott*

              correct. and the point is to weed out the worst alcoholics using this process. just to be clear this is a pre-entry test to the work site, not an on-site random test, so while you could (would) be fired for alcohol use during work hours, this isn’t the same thing.

    2. Natalie*

      This sounds like an individual problem you’re having with your workplace. It might be more effective to attempt to address that problem, either directly or by finding a new job, than screen out a full 20% of the population from gainful employment.

      1. scott*

        no, its a pet peeve. and if I’m screening out 20% of the population, i guarantee of that 20% most will adapt. they come in after their smoke breaks and they reek of smoke. how is that different than a perfume policy?

  23. Brit*

    If you have an Employee Assistance Program, see if you can convince them to include e-cigarettes in the companies tobacco policy (if they have one already – if not, this would be a great time to write one). If you need assistance with that, most of the states in the US will have a department of tobacco prevention and control in the state health department, and some of them (like PA where I am) have regional contractors that can help in your area – they should be able to provide you with some information that you could present to your workplace regarding the dangers of e-cigarettes.

  24. SubwayFan*

    Late to the party, but look up e-cigarette policies within your state. Before my company happily announced its own policy banning them indoors, my boss’ boss would take them to meetings, and yes, they smell bad. I checked around and a simple google search found that while my state (MA) doesn’t ban them, several individual towns/cities have anti e-cig policies. So you may be able to use one of those laws to convince your workplace to get rid of them.

  25. Andrew willmart*

    I work for a Software company and it is a small scale industry. According to me Cigarettes should not allow on desk because it will affect the company’s environment and moreover if one talk about professional then also it is not correct. I think there should be one separate room for smokers where then can go and can smoke.

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