No Smoking at Work -- What are the Rules?

Posted almost 5 years ago. 1 helpful vote



What is Tobacco?

Make sure the employer is clear on how tobacco and smoking are defined. Specific references to cigarettes, clove cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, smokeless tobacco and other forms of tobacco (shredded, compressed, plugs, flakes, leaves, twists) should be stated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recognize such other forms as bidis, kreteks and gutka.


What is Prohibited?

Make sure the rules are clear. The employer should state unambiguously whether smoking is banned everywhere on the workplace (or while on the job), or whether there will be designated smoking areas. If such designated areas are to be established, the employer should state specifically what rules or policies apply to their usage and their maintenance.


Chew on this!

Make sure the policy covers chewing tobacco and other forms of usage. The employer should characterize the policy as a tobacco possession and use policy and a no-smoking policy, not simply a no-smoking or a smoke-free policy. In order for the policy to be uniformly applied, it must prohibit both smoking and chewing tobacco. The prohibition, in fact, can cover possessing, holding, selling, buying, trading, using, inhaling, ingesting, exhaling, chewing, burning, lighting or carrying any lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe or other tobacco product, and consuming or holding tobacco in one's mouth or elsewhere in or on one's body or one's person.


Smoky Relations.

Consider how the employer will resolve conflicts between smokers and non-smokers. Will non-smokers' rights to breathe smoke-free air take priority over smokers' rights when a conflict arises? Will the employer convene a committee to address such issues, or will the Human Resources Department establish a policy for addressing conflicts?


Break it Up!

If smokers are permitted to use a designated smoking area during their breaks, the employer should emphasize the point that they are not entitled to longer or more frequent breaks during their work shifts. Excessive lingering or mass gatherings in the smoking area should be prohibited.


Clean Up Your Act.

If a designated smoking area will be used, then state the policies and procedures concerning the disposal of smoking materials, litter and other debris, the ventilation of the facilities, and the need for strict adherence to fire safety rules.


Getting Burned for Breaking the Rules.

Spell out the penalties for violating the smoking and tobacco policy. These may include civil or criminal infractions, including fines, imposed by federal, state and local agencies. Employers typically impose a progressive disciplinary procedure for employees who smoke in violation of a tobacco-free policy. Usually, this involves a verbal warning for a first-time offender, followed by a written warning, then a suspension, and ultimately a termination from employment.

Additional Resources

American Cancer Society Statement on Smoking at Work

California Law on Smoking at Work

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