Is the use of electronic cigarettes at work coming to an end?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recently appealed to the federal government to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public and work places. Without clear regulations across Canada, several municipalities, provinces and institutions have taken action on their own.


Electronic cigarettes remain a gray area in Canada. So much so that the Heart and Stroke Foundation decided a few days ago to appeal to the Harper administration to legislate on this as soon as possible. For now, only non-nicotine products are permitted for sale by Heath Canada. Insufficient regulations have led to a campaign by the foundation to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public and work places, similar to its campaign to prohibit selling to minors. The Minister of Health, Rona Ambrose, reacted quickly by commissioning a new study by experts to measure the potential harmfulness of these products.


A series of decisions for public places


While awaiting the results of this study, certain cities chose to take action ahead of the federal regulations. So far, three of them (York in Ontario, Red Deer in Alberta and Vancouver in British Colombia) have simply banned the use of electronic cigarettes in public places as well as the selling of them to minors. In September, the Montreal city council asked the Quebec government to revise tobacco legislation to include electronic cigarettes. This autumn, Nova Scotia's government should also be passing laws to prohibit use in public places.


Uncertainty for work places


In offices, it’s a different story. Some Canadian municipalities wish to play a role in prevention by prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes in their own buildings, as Toronto has done. However, the option of allowing electronic smoking in the office is left up to each business. Some management chooses to include electronic cigarettes in their tobacco regulations, thus prohibiting them. Large North American companies such as Walmart, Target and UPS have already adopted this method. Others prefer to allow them and to not modify their existing regulations. Electronic cigarettes produce no odour and are less bothersome to fellow colleagues. Additionally, some managers notice one advantage: electronic cigarette users end up being more productive since they take fewer breaks outside.


The fact remains that there is still too little data on the effects of electronic cigarettes on health. While certain studies confirm that smoking electronically is much less harmful than smoking normally, others are starting to show some negative effects such as the impact of vapour on the quality of the surrounding air and the presence of ultra-fine particle emissions in these vapours. This is why it is imperative for the Canadian government to make a decision on the issue.


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