You asked: “We are planning to offer a tobacco credit on our healthcare next year for employees that do not use tobacco. The employee will have to sign a form stating he/she is tobacco-free. We have an employee that uses an electronic cigarette. Would you consider that employee to be smoke free? ”
Your question is very timely as some employers are now requiring all new hires to be “tobacco free”, even adding nicotine to their pre-employment drug screen tests. But that’s another issue. For employers offering special benefits to their non-smoking employees, e-cigarettes must be addressed.
Electronic cigarettes use battery-generated heat to turn nicotine, flavor and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. Though many of these devices are made with nicotine that is not derived from tobacco, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) would not consider your “vaping” employee tobacco free. The FDA has not tested e-cigarettes and has not approved manufacturers’ claims that these devices aid in the cessation of smoking. Therefore, it does not include them on its list of approved smoking-cessation devices.
The FDA warns that consumers currently have no way of knowing:
- whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use,
- what types or concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals are found in these products, or
- how much nicotine they are inhaling when they use these products.
Until official testing can be done, the jury is out regarding not only the safety or effectiveness of these devices, but also regarding any second-hand effects or risks they may pose. That is why many businesses have banned them altogether, along with regular cigarettes.
Other nicotine-replacement devices, such as patches, gum, nasal sprays, lozenges and some inhalers have been thoroughly tested and are FDA-approved and regulated. You should consider employees using these methods eligible for the “tobacco free” benefits.
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