Last reviewed 14 October 2013

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), have published a joint briefing note on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

The briefing note Will You Permit or Prohibit E-cigarette Use on Your Premises? has been produced to assist organisations considering the use of e-cigarettes by their staff, clients or customers, or generally on their premises.

The notes points out that the public health community is still debating the pros and cons of e-cigarettes, referred to in the document as nicotine-containing products (NCPs), and the advice of policy makers is limited by the available evidence.

It also notes that the term “electronic cigarette” is a generic term and not very helpful since, despite their name, e-cigarettes are totally different from cigarettes. Many, but not all, are in the form of thin white tubes that look like cigarettes. Some e-cigarettes contain nicotine, some do not. Some produce a white odourless vapour, others produce no vapour at all. They do not burn tobacco and do not create smoke.

The briefing note recommends that in order to establish a sensible and justifiable policy, it is advisable to consider five questions, as follows.

  1. What are the key issues for the organisation, eg is it maintaining compliance with smoke-free legislation, promoting good role models to children or projecting a clean and healthy image for the premises?

  2. What is the organisation trying to control? Is it vapours, the use of nicotine, products that look like cigarettes or medical substances on the premises?

  3. Are there concerns about the possibility of harm from NCPs, such as potentially harmful chemicals in some products, secondhand exposure, or renormalising smoking on the premises?

  4. Will restricting or prohibiting the use of NCPs support compliance with smoke-free policies?

  5. Is the intention for the organisation’s policy to help to improve people’s health?

The briefing explores these questions in some detail and can be accessed via the CIEH website.