E-Cigarettes at Work

Exposure to electronic cigarettes in indoor workplaces

Electronic cigarettes can negatively affect indoor air quality and pose a risk of secondhand exposure in workplaces. Learn more about what employers can do to eliminate exposures.

Electronic cigarettes are also called “e-cigarettes” or “e-cigs.” Some e-cigarettes look like regular traditional cigarettes but some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items. When a user breathes in on an e-cigarette, it heats a liquid to form a mixture of very small liquid droplets and gases in the air that are inhaled directly into their lungs. These droplets are approximately one to two micrometers in size (the diameter of a human hair is around 100 micrometers). Both the droplets and gases can contain harmful chemicals.1 When the user breaths out, a portion of this mixture is released into their surroundings, which can negatively impact indoor air quality.
Using e-cigarettes is common in some U.S. workplaces. Employees in indoor workplaces that allow using e-cigarettes are at risk of involuntary secondhand exposure to these harmful chemicals. Further, many non-user employees perceive that using electronic cigarettes at work contributes to reduced productivity.2 Examples of these workplaces include:

  • Homes
  • Vehicles
  • Buildings
    • E-cigarette retailers
    • Bars
    • Nightclubs

Potential harmful effects

The very small size of particles given off by e-cigarettes means that they can deposit in the mouth, nose, and deep in the lungs of user and non-user employees.3 Additionally, NIOSH researchers report concerns for primary users such as:

  • Cavities and gum diseases
  • Upper and lower respiratory tract irritations as well as lung cancer
  • Irritation and toxicity (short- and long- term) to the skin, urinary tract, and liver4

Prevent exposures in the workplace

Employers can:

  • Establish a smoke-free indoor workplace, including free of e-cigarettes, to protect employees from involuntary, secondhand exposures.
  • Promote smoking cessation programs as part of an overall tobacco-free workplace.

Employees can:

  • Where possible, choose employment at a tobacco-free workplace.
  • Encourage co-workers or personally seek resources for e-cigarette (and tobacco smoking) cessation, for example by calling the free smoking quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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