A new study from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health finds that adding vaping to a workplace smoking ban undermines smoking cessation attempts.
In their paper, Abigail Friedman, Jon Oliver, and Susan Busch say that smoke-free laws possibly cause a reduction in the volume of cigarettes consumed and are also linked to a drop in the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (vaping).
The problem comes when legislators or employers add a ban on vaping onto the smoke-free workplace directives. As with so much vaping legislation, little thought is given to the unintended consequences.
The researchers conducted an observational study of nationally representative data from the Centers of Disease Control’s 2014–2018 National Health Interview Survey. The data came from 87,334 participants, aged between 18 and 54.
They looked at the effects of workplace restrictions on both smoking and vaping behaviour. Vaping has soared in popularity in the United Kingdom over the last ten years as smokers who had difficulty quitting through traditional means took to switching and reducing their harm exposure in droves. This success was mirrored in the United States despite a much more hostile atmosphere.
The authors say, “76% of the U.S. population covered by smoke-free worksite laws”. They believe the evidence shows a net positive benefit for public health as a result, reducing overall smoking rates, and think they should be expanded nationwide.
What are the UK laws governing smoking in the workplace?
Any workplace or related public space in the UK that is enclosed or substantially enclosed must be smoke free. This means employers have to ban employees from smoking in those sections and in company vehicles.
The trio note that much of the research looking at the benefit of smoke-free workplace legislation was carried out prior to the vaping boom.
“However,” they say, “results also suggest that adding vape-free worksite restrictions may have muted the smoke-free law’s reduction in young adult smoking by over 50%.”
This means that adding a prohibition on vaping to current laws did not result in a reduction in vaping. In addition, placing additional restrictions resulted in a reduction of the effectiveness of smoke-free worksite laws in reducing smoking.
Speaking on the subject, lead author Abigail Friedman feels this raises an important consideration for politicians and employers: “The bulk of current evidence finds that smoking cigarettes is likely to be far more harmful than vaping nicotine. To promote public health, policymakers need to understand how tobacco control laws affect both of these behaviours.”