Employees at Juul Labs Inc. were accustomed to puffing away on the sleek e-cigarettes that made the startup an overnight success. So their boss had to acknowledge some awkwardness on Tuesday when he delivered the message: No vaping in the office. Juul’s chief told employees across the U.S. that, starting immediately, they could no longer use its products inside at work and that future vaping at San Francisco headquarters must happen outside under a tent to be erected specifically for the purpose. E-cigarette use has been illegal in California workplaces since June 2016, about a year after the Juul came onto the market. “It may feel nonsensical to prohibit at-work use of the very products we work hard to create and promote,” Chief Executive Kevin Burns emailed staff. “But the bottom line is we need to comply with legal requirements the same as any company.” Mr. Burns wrote in his email to employees that Juul had received an inquiry from the city about vaping practices in its offices. He declined to be interviewed. Many office workers around the country would love their own bosses to banish office vapers to outdoor tents. As sales of e-cigarettes surge, the devices have joined polarizing workplace aggravations like microwaved fish, loud ringtones and reply-to-all messages. Mariah Looney, 26, of Stockton, Calif., worked until earlier this year at a marketing firm where she says most of the men vaped all day. “I legitimately never thought that I would have to deal with someone vaping in an office, and I thought that was a common-sense thing that you don’t do that inside.” Vapor “would creep into all the cubicles” in the room she shared with other employees, she says. “Mostly, it was kind of annoying because I was trying to work.” E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices used to inhale an aerosol from a liquid-filled tank or cartridge—sometimes called a pod—that typically contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. Studies conclude they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but scientists say the health risks of vaping or secondhand exposure aren’t yet known. Twelve states and many cities prohibit vaping in the workplace. But the bans aren’t widely publicized or enforced, according to the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit advocacy group representing vapers and vape shops. Jeff Kelley, a 32-year-old web developer, says it’s the sound that grates—“like a deep inhale through an extremely congested nose.” The vaping culprit at his company sits near him. He asked co-workers if any were willing to swap seats. “Nobody’s into it,” so he wears headphones. Lizzie Serber, 35, who works in marketing in Orange County, Calif., in May started renting space from WeWork Cos., the startup that provides offices to companies that often work within sight of other tenants in contiguous spaces. Some neighbors moved in about eight weeks ago, and “I looked over one day and the guy’s just sitting vaping, like holding a meeting with his colleagues,” she says. “Then I noticed the other day, there was just one guy in there. And it was a different guy that was vaping.” “I thought it was presumptuous,” says Ms. Serber. “Other people share this space.” WeWork declined to comment. Vapers chafe at having to sneak drags or be banished outdoors to stand alongside the smokers. Stephen Jastrow, 26, says it isn’t uncommon for people to sneak puffs in his software company’s bathroom. This fall, he says, a human resources executive “made it a point to send an officewide email warning of the consequences of getting caught on camera vaping in the office.” A vaper himself, “my initial reaction was, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Then someone got fired for sneaking a puff, he says. “People are out there snitching.” Where, then, should vapers vape? Most office buildings apply the same rule to vapers and smokers: Take it outside. Some workplaces attempt to corral cigarette and e-cigarette users together in designated outdoor areas.
Vaping is the current trendy, en vogue thing for the cool kids to do. Thankfully, where I work, vapers are required to go outside and vape in the smoking areas. Personally, I couldn’t care less if someone vapes. Just don’t do it where I work or eat. It’s obnoxious.