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E-cigarettes and vaping in the workplace

E-cigarettes, personal vaporizers (PVs), and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are battery operated devices and are often used as a replacement for cigarettes. They produce a vapour, including flavoured aromas either with or without nicotine.

Employers should decide whether to allow employees to use E-cigarettes and similar products in the workplace or ban them like they would for ordinary smoking implements.

Key points

  • E-cigarettes fall outside the scope of smoke free legislation as the act of smoking requires a substance to be burnt. Therefore whether to allow employees to use them at work or not is up to their employer
  • Some employees use E-cigarettes as part of a plan to stop smoking, so employers may want to support their use if this is the case
  • The vapour from E-cigarettes might be annoying to some employees in the workplace
  • Some E-cigarettes look very similar to real cigarettes so employees or customers may think that real cigarettes are being smoked in the workplace
  • If E-cigarettes are allowed at work, line managers should be aware of who may be using them within their teams. It is best to make it a rule that line management approval is needed to use E-cigarettes in the workplace
  • Preventing the use of E-cigarettes at work could make it harder for those who use them to stop smoking, particularly if they are required to use them in designated smoking areas together with cigarette smokers. Employers may want to consider organising a separate vaping areas in or near the workplace.

Supporting employees to stop smoking

Giving up smoking is difficult and employees often need support to succeed, employers can help by signposting them to appropriate help and support. This could either be through an internal occupational health service or through the NHS smoke free service.

Rules and policies

Employers should be clear about what their rules on the use of E-cigarettes at work are. If they have a policy on smoking or one on drugs and alcohol then they could include a paragraph about E-cigarettes and vaping in there.

When introducing new rules, employers should first consult with any recognised union or elected representatives, and they should speak with all employees to make sure they understand what the new rules mean and that they apply to them.

Where vaping is restricted, employers may want to put up signs or notices in the workplace which make it clear where it is allowed and where it is banned. These should include any rules that relate to the use of E-cigarettes at work.

Smoking and vaping areas

Smoking is forbidden within workplace premises; however organisations can make certain areas available at work to be smoking areas. They do not have to provide a smoking shelter but if they do it must comply with the legal requirements and further information about this can be found at the links below.

An employer could allow staff to vape in the workplace, but should consider the needs of the business and the wider workforce. Where restrictions are placed on vaping, an employer should create a vaping area.

Employers should make clear to all staff where they may or may not smoke or vape at work.

Smoking and vaping breaks

Staff who smoke or vape should try to maintain the same amount of break time as colleagues who do not smoke. However employers may also wish to consider setting out rules about smoking or vaping breaks, including:

  • How many can be taken
  • How long the break may last
  • Any requirements about covering the work whilst on a break

The risks of non-compliance

  • It should be made clear in the rules that any unauthorised or excessive taking of breaks could result in disciplinary action.
  • It should be made clear that vaping in a prohibited area at work will result in disciplinary action.
  • Employees should be reminded that it is a criminal offence to smoke in a designated smoke free public area.