On June 9, 2016, California’s new tobacco legislation took effect, raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 and regulating the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers. California joined Hawaii which was the first state to raise the legal age to 21; however, more than 100 local jurisdictions around the country have also made this change, including Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco.
This new law prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes known more commonly as “e-cigarettes” and vaporizers in all the traditional public places that cigarettes are banned, which includes the workplace. In addition, vaporizers, vape liquid, and other electronic smoking paraphernalia are now treated as tobacco products under this California law, and using these devices, known as “vaping,” is now defined as “smoking” in public. E-cigarettes and vaporizers are legal; this legislation tightened the restrictions on where they can be used and raised the age to 21 for purchasing these products.
Because all California employers are covered by this legislation, employers should review their current smoking policies to ensure they communicate that employees are not allowed to use e-cigarettes and vaporizers where smoking traditional cigarettes is prohibited.
Since most other city and state smoking ordinances do not address e-cigarettes or vaporizers, employers are left to decide how to develop their workplace smoking policies. Employers outside of California can expand on their existing policies to ban the use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers in the same way that cigarettes are prohibited. They can prohibit smoking and vaping throughout the workplace except in designated areas or ban the activities completely from their facilities. A ban on smoking or tobacco products does not imply that e-cigarettes are covered, so we recommend that employers specifically address them in their policies.
Have questions about your workplace smoking policy? Please reach out — HR Knowledge is happy to help.