MAJOR Uttoxeter employers have banned the use of electronic cigarettes in the workplace as debate rages on about the safety of the devices.
JCB and Uttoxeter’s Tesco store have both confirmed they now treat e-cigarettes the same as their non-electronic counterparts.
Workers at the two companies can only use their e-cigs in designated smoking areas.
A JCB spokesman said: “E-cigarettes are treated in the same manner as cigarettes.
“Their use is permitted only the designated smoking shelters that are positioned at JCB’s UK sites.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “E-cigarettes may not be used anywhere on the premises, except in a designated smoking zone.”
The news comes after under-18s were banned from buying e-cigarettes last month.
There is no conclusive scientific evidence explaining exactly how harmful the battery-powered devices are but workplace bans are now becoming widespread across the UK.
Anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has warned the bans may tempt e-cig smokers to return to regular cigarettes.
An ASH spokesman said: “It’s obviously up to individual employers to decide for themselves.
“But we’d be disappointed if they decided to treat e-cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes.
“The two products aren’t comparable as e-cigarettes release vapour rather than smoke.
“The possible risk of treating the two the same is that you might encourage people to go back to smoking and that’s bad for individuals’ health and their employers.
“Smoking leads to increased levels of illness and absenteeism and can lower a worker’s productivity.
“While scientific evidence about the safety of e-cigarettes is limited at the minute, health experts would certainly say they’re much, much less harmful than regular cigarettes.
“When you inhale smoke of any kind, even from cooking or eating fires, it can cause serious respiratory problems.”
E-cigarettes were developed with the intention of helping those hooked on nicotine wean themselves off tobacco.
The vapour e-cigs produce is free from many of the harmful elements in traditional cigarettes, including tar.
Whitehall has mooted licensing e-cigarettes as an official aid to help smokers kick the habit from 2016.
This could see them made available on the NHS in a similar way to nicotine patches.
However, as they are not currently regulated, the electronic devices often contain different chemicals.
In some instances, tests have shown toxic chemicals also found in tobacco that are linked to cancer.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical office, said: “We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults, let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk-free.”
ASH’s guide to e-cig policy for businesses is available online at http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_900.pdf.