Quitting Smoking for the Workplace: Productivity and Health Benefits

By eliminating smoking areas in the workplace, businesses will be reducing sick days and increasing production. This can be done by introducing smoking cessation aids to the workforce, instead of providing smoke break areas.

smoking in the workplace

Though many businesses have a smoke-free policy, many still include an area where smoking is permitted. This is often looked at as keeping with good employee practices. However, due to many misconceptions about smoking which still exist to this day, many policy makers do not understand the harsh reality of allowing smoking near office premises. This accounts for all industries, from office buildings and industrial factories, to retail outlets and fast food restaurants.

Second-Hand Smoke and Indoor Smoking Rooms

Many corporate office buildings, factories, fast food restaurants, etc., still employ an indoor break room that allows smoking. It is believed that as long as the smoking remains limited to only one area of the workplace, it will not affect the rest of the area. Unfortunately, this is not a fact. Second-hand smoke is an airborne contaminant, which contains thousands of toxic chemicals. It is not only unsafe for the person inhaling the smoke directly, it is also unsafe for anyone in the vicinity.

Third-Hand Smoke and Outdoor Smoking Areas

Many companies have tried to stay ahead of the curve, by employing outdoor smoking areas. The belief is that as long as the smoking remains outdoors, and away from entrances, the workplace and its occupants will remain safe from the dangers of tobacco smoke. Unfortunately, this is also a misconception. Third-hand smoke is the name for the residue of smoke which clings to skin, clothing, hair, and other material. Upon disruption of any kind, even air pressure changes, third-hand smoke can reenter the air. It then clings to any other surfaces it comes into contact with. This means those same toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke are now lingering inside the workplace.

The Health of Employees

Employee health is a concern for most businesses. Most insurance policies, as well as internal policies, entail that the workplace be a safe environment for the individuals employed therein. However, when there are rules governing the allowance of smoking areas in, or around the workplace, these policies are not being met. The health of non-smokers are at risk each time someone enters the room after smoking. This is also compounded over time, creating more buildup of toxic chemicals.

Productivity and Sick Days

The production value of any employee is primarily based on their health and wellbeing. Barring accident risks, feeling well generally translates to a higher production level. Nonsmokers who are subjected to second and third-hand smoke, as well as smokers, are often attributable to sick days throughout the year. Smoking causes a myriad of health issues and complications. This is not limited to only smokers, however, as those who are subjected to second and third-hand smoke are just as likely to experience some form of health issue, or another. Therefore, it is in every company’s best interest to regulate and levy a smoke-free environment policy. According to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine, “Smoking showed a large positive effect on the annual number of sick leaves. Hence, the results suggest that the gains to preventing and/or reducing smoking, in terms of reduced production losses, may be large.”

Promoting Smoking Cessation Aids

For companies wishing to increase their employee’s productivity level by assisting in employee health revitalizing campaigns, making smoking cessation aids available should be considered, instead of providing smoke break areas. The costs associated with purchasing these aids would be offset by less sick days, less breaks throughout the day, and higher production values.

  • Mae Dingcong

    Do I have the right to a workplace free from secondhand smoke?

    • Mae Dingcong

      Some states have passed laws either requiring that the workplace be smoke free, or giving employers the right to declare their workplace smoke free. Other states have laws allowing employers to designate a specific “smoking area” that is separated from the workplace so employees may easily avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. However, if your state does not have a law, and your employer does not have a policy, then you may not be protected if your coworkers choose to smoke.