UK MPs Discuss Vaping In The Workplace But The TUC Disagrees With Proposed Policy Change
Vaping in the workplace can be a real bone of contention for all involved but if you’re looking for guidance from the Trades Union Congress [TUC] forget about it.
It would seem the TUC is stuck in the dark ages of attitude towards e-cigarettes and appear to be getting their information and therefore policies from inaccurate and ‘sexed up’ tabloid headlines rather than the latest scientific reports and studies.
This became very apparent during a recent meeting between UK MPs – the New Nicotine Alliance [NNA] – the British Beer and Pub Association [BBPA] and representatives of the UK vaping industry.
Incidentally the Trades Union Congress has around 5.5million members from 49 different unions including staff working within the NHS.
The All Party Parliamentary Group [APPG] for E-Cigarettes was looking at if they should work towards lifting the current vape ban within the Houses of Parliament.
A case of if e-cigs are safer to all concerned then maybe Parliament should allow vaping inside the building to set an example.
If you remember the latest UK Tobacco Control Plan – released last summer – the Government has called on businesses up and down the country to encourage employees to try safer ‘tobacco alternatives’ – which obviously means e-cigarettes.
Like I said the meeting was called to see if the current parliament indoor ban was sending out the wrong message on vaping given MPs – staff and visitors were herded into x2 outdoor vaping zones – and you know my thoughts on those!
Lack Of UK Pub Policy Around Vaping Praised
The proposals being discussed included vaping being allowed in all parliament outside bar areas and cafes – single use offices – and shared offices where everyone agreed to allow it.
All good stuff and I’ll get onto what the comrade from the TUC had to say on the matter shortly.
What was interesting was the comments made by the representative from the British Beer and Pub Association – who said vaping inside pubs wasn’t really an issue at all and whilst no policy existed it has been left up to individual landlords.
Now I could argue this leads to general confusion – which it does lol – but it’s also refreshing to see such a large organization not rushing to legislate but allowing common sense to prevail.
In my town there’s a handful of pubs that allow vaping without an issue whilst others just say no – especially the larger chains and work really needs to be done on educating those at some point in the very near future.
I firmly believe what we call ‘considerate vaping’ should be allowed pretty much everywhere within reason and as vapers we have a duty if you like to not be blowing huge clouds over Mr and Mrs Smith whilst they sip their beer and eat their pub lunch.
But as usual I’m digressing!
OK back to the meeting.
The NNA was represented by Jessica Harding who was impressed with the understanding most of the MPs had on e-cigarettes but more than a little concerned at the attitude shown by the TUC representative – Robert Baugh from Unison.
TUC Says No…
It would seem Unison has ignored this which obviously leaves its NHS members in particular with a ‘mixed message’.
MPs were very well informed, asked very perceptive questions and made suggestions.
Adam Afriye MP suggested the public are overly sensitive to vapour and better public information on the science is needed.
Gareth Johnson MP felt the media needs to be more responsible in reporting the science.
Sir Kevin Barron MP said ASH data shows public perceptions of the relative risks of vaping compared to smoking are going backwards, and that there’s no evidence of significant youth uptake.
He also said the priority for now must be to encourage smokers to switch, rather than getting side-tracked by possible un-evidenced scenarios of vaping uptake later.
The TUC / Unison representative was skeptical of the research which has been conducted, said that the PHE view is not shared by some organisations, eg. NHS Wales which holds a very different one.
He also said that vaping hasn’t really taken off yet and that’s why there hasn’t been a significant amount of youth uptake.
The representative of the British Beer and Pub Association said that their members are not contacting them about vaping – it’s not something they are asking for guidance on.
I think this is significant because pubs are the front line for vaping in enclosed public spaces, and this demonstrates that the landlords are working it out for themselves and adopting policies which suit their circumstances, without needing official interference.
Apparently every single suggestion and fact made about the safety of e-cigarettes in the workplace led to comrade Robert Baugh simply saying:
The TUC disagrees…
Well you can’t be any clearer than that though in the spirit of debate it’s hardly what you might call constructive and helpful…
TUC Is Anti Vaping In The Workplace And Indoors
The TUC has been anti-vaping pretty much since it appeared on our shores.
TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson has blogged his thoughts on whether vaping should be allowed in the workplace and it makes for grim reading:
Allowing vaping in the workplace is a bad idea…
The union body clarification came in wake of series of misleading articles in the press suggesting that the government’s Five Year Tobacco Control plan for England released last month supported vaping at work.
In fact, there is very little about the workplace in the government plan and it simply states that employers should continue to encourage workers to stop smoking.
We need workplace smoking policies that benefit all the staff.
The bottom line is that if vaping helps people quit smoking then we should encourage and support them, but, at the same time, we want our workplaces to be free from all fumes that can potentially make us ill.
That is just as much the case with the fumes from e-cigarettes as with other chemicals, especially as the long-term health risks are still unknown.
The TUC policy towards vaping in the workplace is very clear:
The TUC strongly recommends that unions should ensure that electronic cigarettes are subject to the same restrictions in the workplace as tobacco.
They should not be used in any indoor place.
This is because the risk to others is unknown, but also because it can be confusing if people are seen to be smoking what can look like tobacco.
This undermines the smoking ban.
However employers and health campaigners may wish to promote the use of electronic cigarettes for existing smokers to help them give up, on the understanding that they only use them when they would normally smoke a cigarette and not anywhere that smoking is restricted.
Wow talk about blinkered stone-age thinking…
I have to say it:
Neil H disagrees… 😉
NNA Disappointed By TUC Attitude Towards Vaping
The NNA aren’t impressed with that policy either – Jessica told me:
TUC policy appears to be founded on the fears of the past which have failed to materialise. Science has moved on. TUC should follow.
We are disappointed that the TUC are supporting policies that could harm members and restrict their lifestyle choices.
The TUC has published several blog posts on vaping at work, here is the latest one To Vape Or Not To Vape At Work.
The NNA has responded to the the TUC with a pretty tough talking blog post of their own:
Faced with a panel of MPs who had a good working knowledge of the vaping debate, all referrals to health authorities who are supportive of e-cigarette use in workplaces was met with a stock response of “The TUC disagrees”.
Quite why the TUC is qualified to disagree with, for example, the Royal College of Physicians wasn’t explained.
…to back up his argument, he responded to every citation of reasoned research into vaping with much-debunked misinformation that could only have been gleaned from the pages of newspapers which revel in creating scare stories.
Almost without exception, all were mentioned in support of the TUC’s policy that vaping should be treated exactly the same as smoking.
Nicotine is a carcinogen; we don’t know what is in the vapour; it is a gateway to smoking for children; if you’ve seen an article fostering doubt, it was referenced.
We found this to be very disappointing, especially since most of the concerns that were mentioned would have been published on media with which TUC supporters might be expected to roundly disagree with, and even openly despise.
Therefore, for an organisation which is set up to defend workers’ rights to exhibit a perpetually closed mind in front of MPs – who are attempting to facilitate an open and evidential discussion – with the only outcome being that vaping union members will be denied access to harm reduction by their employers on the basis of myths and ignorance, was unfortunate.
If we are to see positive changes in public health surrounding nicotine use, it is important that all parties are amenable to open discussions, and that this will also involve organisations availing themselves of information with an open mind.
Burying heads in the sand might make for an easy life, but it doesn’t facilitate progress.
Nicely put and you can read the full NNA blog post The TUC Will Not See here.