Q. We have a no-smoking policy that complies with Minnesota’s smoking ban. A number of employees have asked if our policy applies to electronic cigarettes or “e-cigarettes.” We are not sure what to tell them. Must we ban the use of the e-cigarettes in the workplace? Are we allowed to if we want to?
A. The use of e-cigarettes—battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale nicotine vapors from a heated liquid—has grown dramatically, raising issues about how no-smoking laws and policies apply.
You are not required to ban the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the state’s smoking ban does not apply to e-cigarettes.
Therefore, each employer will have to make a decision about whether e-cigarettes should be allowed in the workplace. As with all employment-related decisions, you should base your decision on the effects e-cigarettes might have on your workplace. Are there potential benefits to allowing the use of e-cigarettes? Similarly, are there potential problems?
As for banning them, Minnesota does prohibit adverse employment decisions based on the off-duty use of “lawful consumable products.” Note that the statute only applies to off-duty use. You could ban e-cigarettes in the workplace as long as you don’t punish employees for using them elsewhere.