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Vaping could put people in workplace at risk

Throughout our country smoking has been banned from most workplaces, college campuses and public gathering places for a long time.

A lot of women smoke. A lot of men smoke. But smoking comes with documented risks. Women should understand that smoking harms their heart and lungs, increases their chance of getting cancer, may cause stroke and may even create trouble with getting pregnant. Five of the leading causes of death for men are affected by smoking: heart attack, stroke, cancer, emphysema and pneumonia.    

And then along came vaping! Do we even know what we don’t know? Recently at a Friday Forum experts from the Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition shared information, statistics, vaping methods and other concerns with the Friday morning crowd at Natchez Coffee.

E-cigarette use may benefit some people and harm others, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Some people use e-cigarettes as encouragement to wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes. This is why many people decided to transition from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved these e-cigarettes as a smoking-cessation product.

Pod vapes, made by companies such a JUUL, Suorin and others look high tech, some even look like a USB drive or a sleek-looking lighter. Although small, these devices can cause big problems. Pod vapes may contain flavors, which add to their appeal, especially to first-time users. Nicotine is a very addictive drug, and with every vaping puff, the user may get a high dose of nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals.  Some pod vapes even hold as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

According to the American Lung Association people should understand that vaping may pose risks from second-hand emissions. As of Sept. 16, 2019, the CDC had reported six deaths from vaping-related illnesses and 450 possible cases.

All of this information requires that we pay close attention to new information and discoveries about this issue. So, the work environment becomes a major target for questions about smoking and/or vaping. Often the responsibility for monitoring vaping in the workplace falls on the Human Resources Department.  As this concern grows, there are suggested steps that HR Offices can consider as they prepare to get started on policies or other ways to handle vaping in their workplaces. They should:

Know their state and local laws.

Ask their employees about vaping. (Upwards of 10.8 million U.S. adults use e-cigarettes with this usage being higher among adults aged 18-24.)

Make the policy comprehensive.

Handle smoking and vaping issues with consistency.

Ensure that communication about the policy is shared with all through any number of delivery methods.

Plan for ample time to implement the policy(ies).

This is a time-consuming challenge for companies and employers and will take time with revisions, approvals and acceptance. But protecting your employees and creating a safe working environment are the objectives here.

The world of vaping is a rapidly growing and a rapidly evolving environment.

It is critical for companies, large and small, to engage in proactive measures to ask the important questions and provide the most current actions to maintain an educated and safe workplace.

Friday Forum is a weekly gathering of community to hear valuable presentations about pertinent issues in our community and is sponsored by the Natchez Adams County Chamber of Commerce, Alcorn State University and Natchez Coffee.

Ruth Nichols is one of the coordinators of the Friday Forum Series.