Vaping has become an increasing concern in the workplace, with almost 11 million adult Americans using vape products, according to the CDC. While many believe vaping is relatively harmless, more socially acceptable than smoking, and a useful tool to quit, nicotine is addictive and dangerous, no matter how it’s delivered. That’s why now’s the time to explore more about vaping, why it’s harmful, and how your workplace can take action.
What is vaping?
Vaping devices are battery-powered instruments that use liquid-filled cartridges usually containing nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals. This liquid is heated into a vapor, which is then inhaled. Vaping devices include; e-cigarettes, pods, vape mods and vape pens, among others.
How does vaping work?
Puffing activates the heating device, vaporizing the liquid in the cartridge. The user inhales the resulting steam. Newer-generation vaping devices provide higher power to the atomizer, delivering nicotine faster and more efficiently to the user.
Isn’t vaping safer than smoking?
Often employees who want to quit smoking turn to vaping, also known as e-cigarettes, sometimes believing it’s less harmful and more socially acceptable. Many choose to vape as a way to transition to becoming a non-smoker. Although e-cigarettes have been promoted as an aid to help people quit smoking, a recent study showed nicotine dependence levels more than two times higher among e-cigarette users compared to traditional tobacco smokers.
Among users of both products, nicotine dependence levels were higher when using an e-cigarette than conventional cigarettes. These findings suggest that e-cigarettes may have a higher addictive potential than combustible cigarettes. Many employees choose to vape during working hours and smoke cigarettes while off the clock, a combination that puts them at an even greater risk for health issues. Despite the hype, vaping isn’t likely to help people quit smoking.
Vape pens contain nicotine, sometimes in higher amounts than cigarettes. Nicotine is dangerous in every form and is a highly addictive, toxic substance that raises blood pressure and spikes adrenaline, which increases the heart rate and the chance of having a heart attack. Emerging data from John Hopkins suggests vaping also increases the odds of lung disease and asthma. Employees who vape expose themselves to unknown chemicals that aren’t fully understood and are likely unsafe.
Vaping is gaining in popularity
Vaping is most popular with younger employees. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 20 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 use vape products, compared with 16 percent of those ages 30 to 64 and less than 0.5 percent of those 65 and older. And vaping is gaining popularity. The global e-cigarette and vape market was valued at $18.13 billion in 2021 and is expected to top $182.84 billion by 2030. Many analysts predict that vaping and e-cigarettes will become the next nicotine epidemic.
Vaping is a workplace concern
Employers should be concerned about the growing vaping trend and how it impacts employee health, the workplace, and healthcare benefit costs. Vaping reduces overall productivity and morale for organizations. For instance, those who vape are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who don’t. Their conditions can be more challenging to treat due to a disruption of the brain’s coping mechanisms that buffer against depressive symptoms. Higher incidences of nicotine use have also been associated with conditions like ADHD. Productivity drops when vaping or smoke breaks interrupt work. Those who vape are more likely to miss work due to health issues and illnesses.
Because vaping is sometimes perceived as more socially acceptable, it’s not uncommon for employees to vape on the job. When they do, 63 percent of their coworkers say they’re bothered or annoyed by on-the-clock vape usage. Vaping on the job leads to lower overall morale and workplace satisfaction.
How can my workplace take action?
The evidence is clear – vaping is a growing trend that should concern employers. Taking swift action is beneficial for everyone in the workplace. Here are four steps employers can take today to help employees who vape find ways to quit.
Educate your employees. Many myths pervade that vaping is safe and leads to better health and less nicotine use. Share the dangers of vaping with your team, so they aren’t fooled by misinformation.
Make sure you offer a smoking cessation program through your benefits plan that includes vaping. Many programs only focus on tobacco users.
Find a program that provides an individualized approach with vital features such as one-on-one coaching, engaging content, and resources to build healthier habits. Individuals are 3.6 times more likely to succeed in quitting with a trained coach at their side.
Ask your provider for clinical evidence that their program works. A good provider will have quantifiable results backed by solid data and clinical documentation to back up claims.
Helping your employees quit vaping increases workplace productivity and reduces the overall impact on your business’s bottom line. The sooner you implement an effective vaping cessation program, the better it will be for your employees and organization.
Photo: Flickr user Kannaway