Why Smoking Policies Can Cause Friction in the Workplace

21/07/2015
Smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes is something that everybody knows is unhealthy, and which is becoming less and less socially acceptable. Many smokers are also trying to quit, some by giving up altogether, others by switching to electronic cigarettes that don't produce smoke. The cheap e-liquid shop is in fact one of the biggest growth industries in the UK leisure market right now. However, there are still a fairly large minority of adults who do smoke tobacco, and who need to do this due to a nicotine addiction. Since you are likely to have some smokers in most working populations, you therefore need to deal with the fact people within your company will need cigarettes at times in the working day.

Company Smoking Policies

Obviously, there are laws these days around where people can smoke, and these exclude people from smoking inside, in company vehicles, or right by the door of your building.  However, when it comes to any other matters, like how regularly people are allowed to smoke or whether they can use nicotine replacement therapies in some places where smoking isn't legally allowed, it is down to you as a policymaker to decide what can and can't happen during working hours on your site.
When setting your policy, it is important to put aside your own views, whether you yourself are a smoker or an avid anti smoker, and remember that the goal is to create a situation that is comfortable for both your smoking and non smoking staff – and to avoid friction between the two.

What Tend To Be the Biggest Issues for Smokers?

When it comes to your policy, what your smokers care about most is having a place they can go that is sheltered, and isn't too far away (believe it or not, they don't necessarily want to take a long break every time they smoke, but may need to smoke on a busy and stressful day without losing too much time!).

What Tend To Be the Biggest Issues for Non Smokers?

Non smokers may not like being exposed to smoke, and so for them it may be important that they don't have to walk through the designated smoking area to gain access to the building. Additionally, friction can arise when non smokers feel that smokers get more breaks, and are always going out for a cigarette while they are at their desks. In actual fact, usually non smokers take just as many breaks (unless you have a particularly slack smoker in your team, which is a different issue) to do things like get drinks, and breaks from monitors should be encouraged anyway for health and safety reasons, however to avoid a perceived problem, it can be a good idea to have a policy (or even just a recommendation) about how frequently people can take breaks, especially if you all work fixed hours.
Policies on controversial matters like smoking need to be handled carefully, so make sure you consider your team's needs and if necessary, make your decisions in consultation with them.

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