Q: I was issued a verbal warning for smoking at my desk. Can I vape at work?

Can I vape at work? I am a smoker and am struggling to quit the habit. I decided to switch to e-cigarettes to try and break my addiction. I started vaping at my desk as it’s more productive than taking smoke-breaks outside. But then my employer gave me a verbal warning for smoking in the office. I feel this is really unfair, because I’ve been told that e-cigarettes aren’t included in the no-smoking laws. Can I ignore the warning and continue to use my e-cigarettes at my desk?  

Law Quest


You are correct in your observation that e-cigarettes aren’t included in the no-smoking laws (yet). South African law currently doesn’t prohibit vaping in the workplace – although all indications are that it’s only a matter of time before our law is changed to address e-cigarettes. Having said that, ignore the verbal warning at your peril. Many employers have seen fit to deal with e-cigarettes in the same light as cigarettes, ie. by banning the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, where they can only be smoked in designated smoking zones. An employee is obliged to comply with all reasonable provisions of an employer’s policies and procedures.

In short, if your employer has warned you against smoking e-cigarettes at your desk, then you’d be ill-advised to ignore the warning. If your company has implemented a smoking policy, it’s advisable to read it and see if e-cigarettes have been included in the policy. If your employer has decided to treat e-cigarettes in the same way as cigarettes, then our recommendation is for you to familiarise yourself with your employer’s smoking policies, and comply.


Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.