Is it legal to vape at work in Australia?
If you live in Queensland - NO. Queensland has legislated e-cigarettes under the same tobacco control laws as conventional cigarettes, meaning you are not allowed to use them in smoke-free areas. This includes workplaces.
If you live anywhere else in Australia - YES - but your workplace has the right to forbid you from doing so, and you'd be well advised to follow their directives if you're unfortunate enough to be told to stop.
Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's necessarily a good idea to do so, though. I worked in an office when I started vaping. Luckily for me, I happily vaped away at my desk all day, and no-one ever told me to stop. On the contrary, my managers and work mates thought it was hilarious seeing large plumes of sweet-smelling vapour rising from my general area. Some would even deliberately come over to speak to me just to get a whiff of whatever delectable aromas happened to be swirling around at the time (pro tip for single males - the strawberry flavours are the chick magnets). ;-)
They stuck this picture up on my desk. Still can't figure out why.
Regardless of my freedom to vape at work, I always kept it discreet so as not to create an issue with the cumulonimbi I was regularly producing. I would always blow the vapour down onto my desk to disperse it, never up at the ceiling where it could draw unwanted attention. I never blew vapour in anyone's direction, and if someone was sitting in close proximity to me, I would always ask their permission before steaming up their work station. Plus every now and then I would do the lung hold so there was no exhaled vapour anyway. I found that by practicing common courtesy, everyone was perfectly happy for me to vape at work.
Actual picture of me working outside once :-P
On the odd occasion I would draw suspicious glances from people passing by my area (once a lady thought my computer was on fire and panicked - she laughed when I told her it was just me), and every now and then I would be asked if my vapour was harmful to others.
Is vaping at work harmful to others?
We've already briefly looked at this in my previous blog post: Is passive vaping a Thing? But this week I discovered another study that looked into the issue with a little more practicality.
You see, the study we examined in the first blog post only had one crucial problem - the vapour was produced by a "smoking machine" - a machine designed to draw e-cig vapour via pump action. This is all well and good, but it does not account for absorption into the lung of a human vaper.
Which is why I was delighted to happen across:
O'Connell, G., Colard, S., Cahours, X. and Pritchard, J. (2015). An Assessment of Indoor Air Quality before, during and after Unrestricted Use of E-Cigarettes in a Small Room. IJERPH, 12(5), pp.4889-4907.
In this study, the designers decided to simulate a real-world passive vaping environment, and measure the air quality before, during and after a session of unrestricted vaping by actual humans.
They took a 4.4m x 2.9m meeting room with no external ventilation or air-conditioning and hung a bunch of air measurement devices from the ceiling with metal struts.
They measured the air quality for one hour prior to anyone entering the room. They then let five people into the room to start a meeting, and didn't let anyone vape for another hour. Then, three of the five vaped to their heart's content on 16mg/L cig-a-likes for a further 2 and a half hours. Finally, they booted them all out and measured the air quality for just over an hour afterwards.
What they measured
They measured the levels of a laundry list of stuff against either the UK Workplace Exposure Limits, EU Indoor Air Quality Guidelines or the WHO Air Quality Guidelines.
The list is massive so I won't write it all here (you can read it in the full paper here), but some of the most interesting ones were:
- carbon monoxide,
- volatile organic compounds,
- low molecular weight carbonyls,
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (the stuff that causes cancer),
- trace metals, and
- tobacco-specific nitrosamines.
In summary, of all the numerous nasty nasty things they measured for, the levels that did rise during the vaping phase were hundreds, if not thousands, of times lower than the limits imposed by the regulatory authorities.
A few fascinating details:
- Absolutely no change in airborne nicotine levels before, during or after the vaping session
- Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde levels were lower after the vaping session than before anyone was in the room
Levels of all polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (the stuff that causes cancer) remained completely unchanged across the entire study period
Levels of all trace metals remained completely unchanged across the entire study period
Levels of all tobacco-specific nitrosamines remained completely unchanged across the entire study period
Is it OK to vape at work?
This study was great because it recreated a real-world vaping scenario in a real-world workplace. Not only that, but they did it in a small, poorly ventilated room, and it still showed that vaping had a minimal if not zero effect on indoor air quality.
Does this mean you can now go around clouding up your workplace with impunity and telling anyone that doesn't like it where to go?
I would strongly advise against it. Because firstly, of course, there is surely another study out there, done exactly the same way, that shows the exact opposite. Such is the nature of scientific research. And secondly, you being a jerk about vaping at work will do nothing to help our cause of harm reduction through vaping.
When it comes to vaping at work, I personally recommend you follow these guidelines:
- ASK FIRST. Don't just go for your life. Ask your boss and your workmates if it's OK. If so - happy days.
- KEEP IT DISCREET. Don't show off how massive your clouds are thanks to your latest 150W box mod. The less vapour finds its way to others, the less likely there are to be complaints.
- IF YOU'RE ASKED TO STOP - STOP. There's no point being the obnoxious neighbourhood vaper. Do your part in keeping the image of our community beyond reproach.
Vaping at work can be a great way to raise awareness for our cause and enlighten those who only have the scare-mongering information of the legislature to go on. So inform yourself, be nice, and enjoy sharing your smoke-free success story with your workmates!