You've seen them everywhere and perhaps even used one yourself. Electronic cigarettes, looking like regular cigarettes, have become the latest smoking-related trend. The slim, metal e-cigarette holds liquid nicotine that, when heated into a vapor, can be inhaled. There is no smoke, only water vapor. The liquid nicotine, also known as e-liquids or e-juice, are equally hip; sold at "juice bars" and offered in fruity flavors such as strawberry, peach, and pina colada, among others.
In fact, they are becoming so fashionable that Big Tobacco has targeted young adults in their TV ads featuring sultry celebrities using the e-cigs in night clubs.
Proponents say using these types of devices are "safer" than actual cigarettes - yielding no carcinogens from the smoke, little or no odor, reduced social stigma, and can allow persons serious about quitting a tobacco habit or addiction to step-down the amount of nicotine consumed.
While this method is purported to assist some people to stop smoking cigarettes, it has enabled many others to continue their habit publicly. It has become so popular that it has created a reverse affect and enticed non-smokers or occasional smokers to start using the apparatuses.
By bringing e-cigs into the mainstream, it is changing attitudes about the methods of consuming substances such as tobacco or related products like nicotine with no evidence that it is safe.
One of the most prevalent marijuana trends is personal vaporizers or vape pens. Vape pens are akin to the e-cig and work similarly. Sleek and tech-savvy, the rechargeable devices can be plugged into a USB port or wall adapter. They allow for a manner of consuming highly concentrated, extremely potent THC resin or extracts of marijuana called dabs, wax, hash oil or butter, butane hash oil, etc. which averages 50 to 90% THC content. (THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana. For reference, 1970s and '80s THC of dried marijuana averaged about 1-3%. Today's dried pot averages about 10-16% THC.) Dabs are to pot what Everclear is to alcohol.
This method, called "dabbing," involves placing a small amount of the dabs, wax or hash oil into the vape pen which highly heats and vaporizes the substance into the inhalable vapor. People, including teens, buy the very strong hash oils to fill ordinary e-cigs making the use of cannabis in those devices virtually indistinguishable from the liquid nicotine. E-cigs and vape pens are sold everywhere and vials of hash oil are easily obtainable on the black market.
With the trend of easy-to-obtain and discreet personal devices like e-cigs and vape pens making the perception of harm from traditional smoking a thing of the past, the number of users will likely increase dramatically in the coming years.
Mitigating The Impact to the Workplace
With virtually an undetectable smell, the use of an inconspicuous e-cig or vape pen means that nearly anywhere can become a "smoking area," including the workplace, school, a car, public transportation, sporting events, and more.
Workplace policies and procedures should be reviewed annually to determine that they meet the employer's needs and standards. Conveying these policies to all employees ensures that employees are aware of what is expected. Supervisors and managers can help protect their working environment not only by being familiar with their employer’s drug free workplace policy, but by getting educated on the signs and symptoms of substance abuse. They should be observant of employees and address work performance or behavior issues promptly and consistently. Company leaders may wish to provide advanced training to ensure their supervisory staff is skilled in addressing concerns. It goes without saying that properly documenting all employee issues in accordance with company policy is very important.
Of course, utilizing drug testing is invaluable as a tool in determining the facts when the possibility of substance abuse is present. Ultimately, being educated, observant, and consistent will be the best approach to dealing with substance abuse in the workplace, both now and in the future.