E-cigarettes usage has tripled since 2012 and last year they became the UK’s fastest-growing supermarket product.
Despite their explosion in popularity however, information on e-cigarettes can be confusing and in some cases, it can even appear contradictory.
Companies, however, need to establish clear policies on their use. Research by PMI Health Group revealed that by August 2014, more than half (58 per cent) of UK businesses had not done so. This can leave employees in a state of limbo, leading to possible friction and disputes among workers.
Do you know how do e-cigarettes work? Do you know if they pose a health risk? Are you aware of whether or not they’re regulated under UK law? Can employees ‘vape’ in the workplace?
Put your knowledge to the test with our ‘true or false’ quiz – and get the facts.
1/ True or false: E-cigarettes burn tobacco
Although the tip of some e-cigarettes glow red, this is an LED. Users don’t have to worry about having matches or a lighter to hand – there’s nothing to light.
E-cigarettes are in fact smoke-free and tobacco-free. When the user draws on the device, a battery heats and vaporise a liquid contained in a cartridge or tank – this vapour is then inhaled by the user. This is why e-cigarette users are often known as ‘vapers’ rather than ‘smokers’.
2/ True or false: E-cigarettes may still contain nicotine
E-cigarettes are used by many smokers, who cannot quit using nicotine, to help them kick their tobacco habit.
The tanks or cartridges of e-cigarette are filled with a liquid solution that will normally contain nicotine. This is drawn into an atomizing chamber and turned into a vapour when the user inhales.
The concentration of nicotine will vary and in the case of newer generation e-cigarettes, users can fill the devices with their own preferred flavour and strength of liquid. Nicotine-free options are available.
In addition to nicotine, these solutions will also typically contain propylene glycol and/or glycerol, and flavourings.
3/ True or false: E-cigarettes pose no health risk concerns
The jury is out. While there is a broad consensus among health professionals that e-cigarettes are less harmful to users than tobacco cigarettes, the overall health risks remain unclear.
The British Medical Association has said that it is worried by the lack of peer-review studies, stating that “while e-cigarettes have the potential to support tobacco harm reduction, any benefits or disadvantages to public health are not yet well established.”
According to the World Health Organisation current evidence shows that “e-cigarette aerosol is not merely ‘water vapour’ as is often claimed in the marketing of these products. While they are likely to be less toxic than conventional cigarettes, e-cigarette use poses threats to adolescents and foetuses of pregnant mothers using these devices.”
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently found that, in a study with mice, e-cigarettes compromise the immune system in the lungs and generate some of the same potentially dangerous chemicals found in traditional nicotine cigarettes.
4/ True or false: E-cigarettes can be used in enclosed public spaces
Although the World Health Organisation has recommended that e-cigarettes be banned in indoor public spaces, they are not currently covered in the UK by the Health Act 2006, which prohibits conventional smoking in the workplace. This means that unless employers choose to put restrictions in place, they can be used anywhere.
The Department of Health has said that it has no plans to make e-cigarettes subject to the same smoke-free regulations that have been in place for normal cigarettes since 2007.
Companies are therefore responsible for establishing an appropriate policy. Organisations such as the BBC, Standard Life and JCB, for example, have decided to ban their use in the workplace.
5/ True or false: E-cigarettes are unregulated
E-cigarettes are not regulated like tobacco products – but they are regulated as general consumer products and further regulation is on its way.
The UK, along with all other EU member states, has until May 2016 to regulate e-cigarettes containing up to 20mg/ml of nicotine under EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
Above that level electronic cigarettes will have to be authorised as medicines by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).