Why A Smoke-Free Workplace Is A Healthy Workplace

With recent news of local municipalities pushing to go completely smoke-free, is it time for you to think about creating a similar workplace? Should you actively discourage smoking from your work environment?

Sign of the times

It makes sense to tackle smoking as a serious health issue. Tobacco smoking is, in fact, the leading cause of preventable death in the country. Unsurprisingly, when the government moved to introduce plain packaging, graphic warnings on cigarette packages and the smoking ban in all enclosed public spaces, these were well-received. As our society becomes more health-conscious, it’s also more accepting of measures to reduce smoking rates and protect the health of both smokers and non-smokers.

Indeed, current trends in Australia indicate tobacco smoking is going out of fashion — fast. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the daily smoking rate for teenagers declined by around 80% over the past 15 years.

Good for business

For businesses, there are some excellent reasons to consider creating a smoke-free workplace. These include:

  • Legal requirements: Under the law, employers must provide workplaces that are free from health and safety risks. Research indicates that smokers are more prone to injuries and accidents than non-smokers — a real hazard in the workplace.

  • Wellbeing concerns: Smoking affects not only the health of the smoker but also those who inhale environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or second-hand smoke. Studies confirm that non-smokers exposed to ETS at home or work increase their risk of heart disease by 25-30% and lung cancer by 20-30%.

  • Business impact: Employees who smoke take up to three times more sick days as their non-smoking colleagues. Apart from the adverse effect on the smoker’s health, the workplace also cops the cost of lost productivity due to frequent smoking breaks.

Is it discrimination?

Since tobacco smoking is legal, could a smoke-free workplace be a discriminatory one? It’s worth noting that smoking is not a protected attribute under the Anti-Discrimination Act as it is neither a disability nor an impairment. There is also no legal obligation for employers to designate smoking areas at work or to allow unlimited smoking breaks.

Of course, creating a smoke-free workplace isn’t just about ‘removing and restricting’, it’s also about supporting. Why not make it part of your wellbeing program to subsidise quitting programs or make ‘how to quit resources’ readily available?

Stub-out smoking from your workplace and promote better wellbeing, a safer work environment and a team who’s in-step with the rest of the nation