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Is It Legal to Ban E-Cigarettes at Work?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Businesses are slowly catching up to e-cigarettes, with some of the largest employers barring them from the workplace.

Walmart, General Electric, Target, and Home Depot have all decided to "lump e-cigarettes in with traditional cigarettes" and prohibit their use in their offices and stores, reports Forbes.

Should your business follow suit and ban e-cigs at work? Here are a few points to consider:

Some States, Cities Already Bar E-Cigs in the Workplace

While you may have your own views of smoking and e-cigarettes, depending on your business' location, you may not have a choice to allow either.

States like Michigan have passed workplace smoking bans for enclosed work spaces, pushing smokers out of restaurants and bars; Kansas has a similar ban which also includes taxicabs and limos. And just this week, New York City's law barring e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is prohibited went into effect.

But proponents of e-cigs claim that these local laws shouldn't apply to "vaping" (smoking an e-cigarette). New Jersey's legislature disagreed, writing e-cigarettes specifically into their workplace smoking laws. Other states have gone out of their way to try exempt e-cigs from these smoking bans, like Wisconsin and Tennessee.

With e-cigarettes sparking new legislation nationwide, you may wish to consult an experienced business attorney in your area to get the skinny on your home city or state's laws.

If your business exists in states which have a legal blind spot for e-cigarettes in the workplace, it will be up to you to make your own policy.

Virtually no state or federal law would prevent a private employer from creating and enforcing an e-cig ban. Business owners don't even have to give employees smoke breaks if they so choose. You may even shoo smokers away from the areas outside your workplace. Starbucks famously barred smoking within 25 feet of their locations for employees and customers alike.

It may be inadvisable to go as far as refusing to hire smokers, but there is also no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on tobacco use -- electronic or not.

The FDA and local governments may still be researching and seeking public approval for e-cigarette regulation, but as a private business owner, you have the freedom to choose.

If you want your workspace to be free of e-cigs and traditional cigs, a properly written smoking ban can make it happen.

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