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What’s the impact of smoking on businesses?

Smokers can cost employers $6,000 per year in lost productivity for cigarette breaks, health care costs and sick days claimed a US study published in the Journal of Tobacco Control.

Each year, smoking kills an estimated 15,000 Australians and costs the country $31.5bn in social (including health) and economic costs. While smoking has decreased by nearly 10 percent over the last two decades, one in seven Australians are still smokers.

Just think of the lost time that all adds up each time an employee goes out for a ‘quick puff’. If an employee takes just 4 cigarette breaks a day, that each last about 10 minutes, then smoking can take up to 8.1% of a full-time employee’s time and 5.4% that of a part-time staff member. What a waste of your time and resources and the impact on productivity!

In addition, almost a full day is taken as extra sick leave by smokers than their non-smoking counterparts, the costs wrack up there too!

How can this impact my business?

An employer is required by law to provide and safe and healthy work environment for their employees and customers and they have the right to designate their workplace as smoke-free.

Many employers can be confused about what they legally have to provide for smokers.

The short answer is ‘nothing’. There is no law that requires employers to get an outdoor shelter or to provide bins (although it’s probably a good idea to keep the area clean and tidy) and you do not have to permit ‘smoke breaks’.

While some people think smoking is a human right, they are wrong! You can have rules which ban cigarette breaks whilst working. This means they can only smoke during their scheduled rest breaks.

It’s best to draw up a clear no-smoking policy that is part of an employee handbook.

How do I deal with e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes and vapers fall outside of the smoke-free laws. So you can choose whether to allow staff to smoke them in the workplace. Some bosses will want to support those using e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. But the vapour may be annoying to other employees and provide a risk of passive smoking. The long-term impact of e-cigarettes isn’t yet known. Our recommendation is that in order to ensure a safe workplace the policy on the use of e-cigarettes is mirrored to that of the businesses no-smoking policy.

What about smoking in company cars?

Smoking isn’t allowed in any work vehicle that more than one person uses, like taxis, buses, vans, or pool cars.

What should I include in a smoking policy?

It’s best to get in touch with your local HR Dept office and they can help you make the changes to your contracts and handbooks in a fair way that complies with all employment legislation.