Running Your Business

Implementing a No-Smoking Policy in the Workplace

  • Back in the '60s and '70s, it was common for workers to smoke in the office

  • Local, state and federal regulations eventually prohibited smoking at most workplaces

  • Creating a no-smoking policy for the workplace can help clear up inconsistencies and tell employees exactly what is (and isn't) permitted when it comes to tobacco use

Posted by July 8, 2018

Ever catch an episode of Mad Men and notice that most of the characters chain-smoked at the office? Once upon a time, in a less enlightened era, everyone smoked in the workplace and a no-smoking policy was basically unheard-of. People even smoked in confined spaces like on airplanes and in restaurants!

Today, however, due to there being increasingly fewer smokers overall, as well as more local, state and federal regulations on smoking and more knowledge than ever about the detrimental health effects of second- and third-hand smoke, no-smoking policies abound in (and around) the office.

What’s more, employees who do smoke and those who don’t are sometimes pitted against one another in an interoffice battle of smokers vs. non-smokers. Smokers may feel their right to smoke has been infringed upon while non-smokers might resent smokers’ extra breaks. This is a fight that a proper no-smoking policy can all but eradicate in the workplace.

The best way to end any “smoking battles” and keep the peace (as well as good air quality) is with a strictly enforced, solid no-smoking policy. Unfortunately, rather than just simply stating that no smoking is allowed inside the building—as was previously done when workplaces began creating smoke-free environments—corporate no-smoking policies must also include specific rules and regulations.

How to Create a No-Smoking Workplace Policy

Your workplace culture, or even the number of smokers vs. non-smokers in your office, may help set the tone or structure for your workplace policy. Some organizations state that no smoking is allowed anywhere in the building (local, state or federal regulations usually restrict this anyway), but will designate an outdoor area for smokers. Other policies prohibit smoking on the premises and go so far as to ban the smell of smoke or tobacco products on persons in the office.

Whatever you decide is right for your office, you’ll want to make it clear, give all employees a copy upon employment and, when making any changes, include the policy in the company handbook. It’s also a good idea to ensure that everyone knows there is a penalty for failing to comply.

Some Things to Consider

When designing a company policy around smoking, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. To prevent the workforce from misinterpreting the rules, it’s important to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Know and understand your state and local laws when you determine your smoking policy.
  • If you’re going to permit smoking on premises, state clearly where employees are allowed to smoke.
  • Include proper disposal rules and provide receptacles in the designated area.
  • State clearly that extra breaks to smoke are not permitted and that designated areas are only to be used before work, after work or during lunch.
  • Include all tobacco and smoking products in your policy, i.e. chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).
  • Mention that the smell of smoke or other tobacco products is prohibited inside the office.
  • Make sure employees know the penalty if they fail to comply with the no-smoking policy, including discipline and/or termination.

Here’s an example of a no-smoking policy you can emulate when designing one for your company. The language should outline the purpose of the policy as well as what is and isn’t permitted
[A] within a designated smoking area [B] or a more restrictive clause in which no smoking is permitted on site [C]. All policies should include a notice of enforceability [D]:

A. To promote good health, remain in accordance with state or local regulation and improve indoor air quality, the company shall be entirely smoke-free. That includes the use of all tobacco and smoking products, including chewing tobacco, pipes, cigars and e-cigarettes. All smoking products are banned from the company workplace. Smoking is prohibited in all areas of the building without exception. This includes employer-owned or leased vehicles, and all other enclosed facilities.

B. The only designated smoking area in the company is the outdoor space marked “Smoking,” located within the roped off area behind the building. There is no smoking allowed along the path to the smoking area, by any entrance to the building, in the parking lot or at any other outdoor area.

C. Additionally, smoking and the use of tobacco products is banned while on company business, while in transit on company assignments, within 50 feet of any buildings, in company parking lots or outdoor areas surrounding the company. The company doesn’t allow smoking breaks to go off premises. Employees must not have the smell of smoke or tobacco products on their person during working hours.

D. This policy shall be enforced and all employees are expected to abide by this policy while at work. Failure to do so can result in disciplinary action including termination.

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