While e-cigarette bans and restrictive regulations have been big news in the U.S. in recent months, the U.K. has heretofore been more sensible in its view of vaping. Now comes word that Standard Life, one of Scotland’s biggest employers, has outlawed the use of e-cigs in its offices.

The company, when challenged, has pointed to the non-smoking ban which has been in place at Standard Life for over twenty years and insists that vapers can join their tobacco smoking brethren outside the company office building, smoking in the open air. They further defend the policy as an attempt to send the message that even the appearance of smoking is not to be encouraged, even if e-cigarettes represent a major step at harm reduction over the use of analog tobacco products, and have a proven anecdotal track record of a positive impact on smoking cessation.

At a time when most employers complain — and non smoking employees agree—that more productive time is lost to longer breaks taken by smokers than is generally allowed their non smoking brethren, a way to keep those with a nicotine addiction at their desks, happy and focused on their work seems fundamentally wrong headed. While Standard Life’s commitment to a smoke free working environment is to be lauded in general, lumping an effective tobacco substitute device in with tobacco cigarettes and banning their use sends the wrong message.

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