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Are e-cigarettes friend or foe to employee wellness?

Originally posted September 8, 2014 by Nick Otto on https://ebn.benefitnews.com

As the gap widens on whether e-cigarettes are part of the solution or still part of the greater problem of employee smoking cessation, their popularity is still on the rise. Experts from the health management group HealthFitness have provided some additional tips for employers taking on the challenge of creating e-cigarette policies in the workplace.

The group advises workplace policies which classify e-cigarettes in the same regard as tobacco products. In doing so, it will minimize risks from known and unknown toxins as research continues on the long-term health impact of the devices.

“This recommendation is the highest standard of public safety,” Dennis Richling, HealthFitness’ chief medical and wellness officer, says in a recent blog post. In doing so, benefit managers’ policies will align with the current trends other employers are reportedly doing, he adds.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the use of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices. As such, the use of incentives to discourage the use of e-cigarettes has no clear right or wrong answer, “but is driven by what an employer believes best fits their situation.” Before making that decision, Richling says he recommends employers consider the following questions:

  • Are you prepared to add complexity to your incentive programs?
  • Does adding e-cigarettes matter?
  • Do you use blood or saliva testing with your smoking cessation program?

As one example, HealthFitness notes there are several ongoing trials researching use of e-cigarettes as cessation devices. Adding their use as an incentive may “create an extra level of effort to manage what may be an appropriate use of e-cigarettes.”

Lastly, HealthFitness recommends using health assessments to educate employees on e-cigarettes. Because the likelihood that current users are either former tobacco users or current “dual users” of both e-cigarettes and regular tobacco progress, tracking e-cigarette data independently is still limited.

“However, the information needed to inform almost all e-cigarette users can be gained by assessing smoking status,” HealthFitness says. “And there is value in providing messaging to health assessment users who use tobacco products about the risks and the facts concerning e-cigarette use.”