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I am a software developer and some of my co-workers took up e-cigarettes (vaping) in the office to replace their cigarette habits. I did the same thing after getting manager approval. I asked my co-workers if any of them minded and none of them really said anything. 4 weeks later, one co-worker in particular is very vocal about me using my e-cigarette in the team area. I can't exactly move myself from the team area, since we're open office seating.

I feel a little betrayed by the sudden change of heart of this one person, but also that it seems no matter what compromises I make (Using it infrequently. Using a smaller model ecig. Making sure the vapor it produces is blown down and away from him, etc.) he remains completely opposed to the idea of me using it indoors.

I'm not sure if there is anything I can do besides give up my ecig, which will put me back on regular cigarettes, which I don't want to do. I am torn. Is it bad form to even use the ecig in the first place? Does anyone have any advice on how a compromise could be reached? Thank you.

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Are you allowed to smoke regular cigarettes in the office? –  thursdaysgeek May 23 at 16:58
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You can't 'vape' outdoors / in a break room / etc? –  mkennedy May 23 at 17:04
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I don't understand. You cared enough about your colleagues' opinions a week ago that you asked them if it was OK to use your ecig. Now, one of them has changed their mind after discovering what they agreed to. Suddenly, you don't care about your colleagues' opinions any more, as shown by youur continuing to use your ecig despite one of them objecting. Did you really care that much about them in the first place? –  David Richerby May 24 at 13:35
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I don't understand why the only alternative is going back on regular cigarettes. Can't you use the e-cigarette in the location that you would have smoked the regular cigarette? –  starsplusplus May 24 at 14:20
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It's very telling that "none of them really said anything" when you asked your co-workers about smoking in the office. Silence is not approval. That means they didn't want to get in your face and say no, but probably didn't like the idea, also probably hoping management would take of this problem for them. Now they find this didn't work, so some are reluctantly complaining. Keep in mind that things usually have to really bother people for a while before they complain. Whether management allows it or not, smoking (or using e-cigs) is obnoxious around other people that aren't also. –  Olin Lathrop May 25 at 14:14

6 Answers 6

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Is it Bad Form to use an Ecigarette or Vaporizor in the office?

"Bad form" is very context-specific.

In my office, it wouldn't be permitted at all, and thus would be extremely bad form.

You can choose to fight for your "rights" by learning what the local laws currently permit, and learning if your company has a specific policy regarding e-cigs. If not, you could choose to "vape" in spite of your co-worker's objections. For me, that would also be bad form, but perhaps in your local context it wouldn't.

On the other hand, you could choose to treat your e-cigs as if they were traditional cigarettes, and follow the norms for smokers in your locale. That might mean you have a smoking room, or must smoke outdoors. For me, that would not be bad form.

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While ecigs are way better to put up with then someone actually smoking indoors (illegal in many work places these days) ecigs aren't completely free of things that annoy your co workers. I've found most "odorless" ecigs are hardly odorless. The thing that personally annoyed me was people puffing away at their ecigs in the middle of meetings and such. Simply put, if you want to smoke (vape) take it outside. –  RualStorge May 23 at 17:54
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@RualStorge The same could be said for hundreds of things coworkers can do to annoy you. Checking phones during meetings, tapping pens/feet/hands, loud music, eating loudly, odorous foods, plenty of things that are both legal and 'allowed'. The main concern over smoking inside is health reasons. As far as I'm aware, those heath reasons are mitigated by ecigs, which brings them out of the "take it outside" category and into the "annoying but let's find a way to work it out" category. –  corsiKa May 24 at 16:57

The person who changed their mind may have never been exposed to ecigs and dismayed to find out that others are affected. In fact, the vapor may affect him or her far more than orginally expected. For instance any kind of a vapor tends to make my asthma much worse. I have never been around an ecig, so I have no idea if it would bother me and perhaps your co-worker was the same. Would you put up with it if one of your co-workers started doing something that caused you physical distress? Honestly the co-worker is in the right here.

Go outside to smoke (is that the corect term for ecigs?) or give up smoking. Alternatively, there are nicotine patches that deliver nicotine without bothering your co-workers. Try those.

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@QuestionMarcs Unproven dangers are not completely unfounded, it wouldn't be the first time that an industry lobby influences direction of studies. Ecigs are still fairly new. Why should anyone expose themselves to potential health risks for your personal benefit in a workplace? –  MrFox May 23 at 17:37
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...but we do know that cigarettes and tobacco smoking are very much harmful, and that the industry lobby tried to downplay the risks for many years (decades?), so it would be rational to be suspicious of the safety of this product as well. The fact that 'the jury is still out' is a risk. Much like in finance, taking risks only makes sense if there is a benefit. The benefit here is very asymmetrical - only you enjoy smoking the ecig, while your coworker gets nothing but (unproven, potential) risk. Maybe your coworker only realized all this now, but such a position seems rational to me imho. –  MrFox May 23 at 17:43
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Isn't the smell enough justification for your co-worker to complain, quite apart from any health risks? If a coworker neglects his hygiene, this does not jeopardize his colleagues' health, but we still get questions like this (and no one thinks it's strange): workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/621/… –  Stephan Kolassa May 23 at 19:25

Do you specifically remember getting the thumbs-up from this co-worker when you were asking around? Or might they have been accidentally left off the list when you asked around?

From all that I can tell after briefly googling "vaping", the health risks are less due to less nicotine, but they are still present. From that I would assume that the health risks of "second-hand vapor" would be proportional. Less than second-hand smoke, but still present.

While I am sympathetic to your desire to quit or reduce your nicotine dependency, if I were a co-worker in an office that forced me to come into contact with nicotine vapor I'd request that management put a stop to their implicit approval to the practice. If there were no regulations against it, I'd leave the company. However, not everyone can afford to be so casual about changing employment.

If your co-worker at first expressed no objection and now does, there may be several explanations for it. They might not have realized what they were consenting to. An "electronic" cigarette sounds like something that wouldn't involve nicotine at all. However, if there were other co-workers already "using" in the office, that probably wasn't the case. It might have been that he felt pressured to keep his mouth shut because he felt office opinion was against him, or he was reluctant to court your disapproval. In this case he is partly to blame for the situation; he should have been upfront about it.

That still leaves you with a problem; you don't want to have to leave the office in order to satisfy your craving for a cigarette. I don't know the legality of vaping in the office in your area. I'm assuming it's in the US...cigarettes are not regulated as heavily elsewhere. The considerate thing to do would be to vape outside. It's inconvenient, but when you weigh one person's convenience against the health of another person, the right thing to do, IMO, would be to give the latter precedence.

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To answer some of your questions: They were included in the first go around. I could see the perspective of it being something they didn't realize or felt pressured into. I don't want to be a bully. I just wanted to find some kind of middle ground. –  QuestionMarcs May 23 at 17:33
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Also, the management has an explicit policy, but the problem is that it's so old that it still references smoking -regular- cigarettes indoors with approval. One of my managers essentially said, "Sure, go for it." But I assume that she didn't know (as neither did I) that one of my teammates would have a problem with it. –  QuestionMarcs May 23 at 17:34

In the 2 offices that I've worked in since e-cigs have made an appearance, they have been specifically banned from being used in the office.

For the last one I worked in, the ban was not right away. There was some tolerance since the managers did not know enough about the e-cigs, so they decided to give it a bit of time to see how the people handled it. To put it bluntly, it didn't work so well. The main complaints being that the vapor and smells would interfere with others who were working in the office. There were especially some issues where a particular co-worker would absolutely hate a certain smell/flavor. With 100-200 people working at any given time, it's easy to see that it's near impossible for everyone to agree on something.

One thing you can then do is ask this co-worker just what about the smoking seems to offend him. Is it the smell? The clouds? The noise? If you can find out what offends him/her, then you can take the necessary steps to correct your actions. In the end, he has every right to work in a smoke-free environment.

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Just because you can't vape at your desk doesn't mean you need to go back to cigarettes. Vape outside like you would if you were smoking. You might want to switch to a higher nicotine strength for work hours, since you wont be able to puff on it constantly.

Alternatively, find out what bothers them about it. They may just not like it in general in which case there isn't much you can do. But if it is the smell they dislike, you might be able to find a more appealing flavor. If its the clouds of vapour, inhale deeper and hold your breath for a moment - you will exhale little to no vapor.

I have worked places where I could vape inside and places I couldn't. It all depends on whether or not the staff and management are ok with it. So find out what they object to and try to eliminate their concerns.

Whether you end up able to vape inside or not, you can stay off the cigarettes. Getting away from your desk for a break is good for you anyways. I haven't had a cigarette in over 3 years thanks to vaping. I still get my nicotine fix but get most of the health benefits of quitting smoking (for those who are not familiar with vaping, many still deliver nicotine, but nicotine on its own is by far not the worst part of cigarettes. I cant say for certain it is harmless, but I am reasonably sure it is less harmful).

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I think it boils down to this in the order given.

  1. Legal regulation. Probably not in place yet, thus not applicable.
  2. Corporate regulation: Global company rules and management decisions. Your manager has approved, so you are good there.
  3. Informal social rules. As others said, not everything that's allowed is appropriate. As a rule of thumb, I would stop doing anything that others complain about, within reasonable limits. E.g. reduce my body odor, stop eating the fermented food that makes them sick (or stop eating in the office space altogether if possible), stop playing music, and yes, I would try to stop habitually tapping my pencil in a densly packed office.

For me these things are the basics of living (or working) together. The reason is that the workplace packs a lot of diverse characters only half-voluntarily in close contact. They spend more time with each other than with their family, for example. They need to get along in order to get shit done. So it's of utmost importance to not annoy your surroundings if possible, period. I would expect that from my colleagues as well. Everybody who knowingly annoys me and doesn't even attempt to avoid that is a prick.

Now the contended term is surely "if possible". From your perspective it's hard or impossible to abstain from an addiction; from the others' perspective vaping is a completely discretionary activity. So there is an objective conflict of interest. My tendency (sure enough, I'm not smoking) is to go and vape somewhere else. Be nice.

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