E-cigarettes took the United States by storm around the same time Facebook and smartphones were becoming ubiquitous. The first generation of "ECIGS" hit the European market in 2006, and came to America the following year, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Respiratory Research. The handheld, battery-operated devices were marketed as healthier alternatives to smoking that help people ween off cigarettes. But a 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General indicated that vaping is a gateway product to cigarettes.
The primary users of e-cigarettes are young Millennials and Generation Z high schoolers attracted to the flavors and slick designs of the devices. Data from the Truth Initiative found that nearly 28% of American high school students used e-cigarettes in the past month. That's up from only 11% in 2017. Nearly all vaping products contain nicotine, the same highly-addictive chemical in cigarettes. But nearly two-thirds of e-cigarette users age 21 and under reported being unaware of nicotine in their favorite products.
The federal government began regulating e-cigarettes in 2016. The "Deeming Rule" was adopted that year. It gave the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over e-cigarettes. The federal minimum age was set at 18 for the purchase of vaping products that year. Several states beat the feds to the punch with their own regulations prior to that. Nebraska, Nevada, Rhode Island and Tennessee are the only states with no state-level restrictions as of 2019.
California is one of ten states that banned vaping everywhere that cigarettes are banned. You must also be 21 to buy e-cigarette products in the state. Juul is by far the most popular brand of e-cigarette in the United States, owning a 72% marketshare. The company is ironically headquartered in San Francisco, which perhaps has the toughest laws against vaping in the country.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban the sale of e-cigarettes within city limits last June. Vaping products are also illegal to ship to San Francisco address as a result of the bill. A ballot initiative to block the new law was rejected by voters in November, with 82% voting to uphold the ban. The law takes effect sometime this month.
The Trump Administration announced a partial ban on fruit-flavored vaping products that target teenagers. But California lawmakers are taking the issue further. State Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, called flavored vaping products "death bait." He recently introduced Senate Bill 793 to ban all other flavored vaping products in the state, including menthol. A bipartisan coalition of 30 lawmakers, including the lieutenant governor, bare backing the bill.
The Bay Area is home to many of the world's largest and most influential tech firms. They spend a lot of money on plush office lounge furniture and high-end office chairs. E-cigarette aficionados swear that the vapor is clean and leaves no lingering smell. But the flavoring agents (e.g. propylene glycol) are easily detectable by non-vapers. Business owners don't want that smell to be associated with their brands.
Most companies have their own policies related to smoking and vaping on top of local, state and federal regulations. Others incentivize quitting. The EX program is a collaborative effort between the Truth Initiative and the Mayo Clinic. The digital cessation program is offered to workers through their employers. It's essentially a virtual live chat and text system that provides tips and encouragement for workers and their family members to quit vaping.
LuAnn Heinen of the National Business Group on Health, believes programs like EX are highly effective. She told HRExecutive.com that diversion programs aren't a high priority for many HR departments yet. But as the workforce gets younger, the vaping epidemic will become more visible to employers across the country.
California law allows designated smoking and vaping areas in workplaces with five or fewer employees, as long as none of them are minors. Larger companies are not allowed to designate any enclosed area for smoking. Eco Office provides space planning services for companies needing to create some sort of smoking area. Give us a call at 408-437-1700 to discuss your needs.