Smoking Policies

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The acceptance of smoking restrictions by an increasing number of businesses reflects a change in the climate of public opinion against smoking. Employees are less and less willing to work in smoky conditions and be exposed to the risk of ‘passive’ smoking.

There are two phases of tobacco smoke:-

Mainstream smoke

Smoke inhaled and then exhaled into the air by smokers
Sidestream smoke

Smoke released from the burning tip of the cigarette etc. between puffs.
Eighty five percent of smoke from a cigarette is sidestream smoke.

Tobacco smoke contains a large number of toxic chemicals and substances including nicotine, ammonia, tar, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. Some of these substances can cause acute irritation – people with respiratory problems and allergies can experience a worsening in their condition as a result of passive smoking. Passive smoking can also cause lung cancer in non-smokers and it has been estimated that passive smoking may be causing several hundred lung cancer deaths a year in the U.K.

With careful consultation and presentation, a smoking policy is a declaration of an enterprise’s commitment to the best interests of all its employees. The negative reactions, which are often expected from smokers, often do not materialise. Indeed, many smokers welcome clear rules that may reduce their consumption of tobacco.


Potential benefits of a smoking policy include:-

reduced absenteeism
improved safety performance (fewer fires)
lower maintenance costs (litter and decoration)
lower ventilation and air-conditioning costs
improved morale among non-smokers
fewer accidents
lower risk of losing key employees
Potential costs of developing and implementing a policy include:-

negotiation/consultation time
time for a co-ordinator to implement, monitor and evaluate the policy
publicising and promoting the policy
purchase and placing of notices
rearrangements to working/rest areas
provision of help to smokers wanting to stop


Relevant law which may support the introduction of a non-smoking policy includes:-

Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 which places a general duty on employers to ensure, so far is as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which require employers to assess the risks to workers and any others who may be affected by their undertaking.
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which require employers to protect non-smokers from discomfort caused by tobacco smoke in rest rooms or rest areas.
Civil Law relating to personal injury


Action on smoking should be approached in an informed and systematic way. Suggested steps include:-

1.  Set up a representative working party to;

  • review current practice
  • gather information plan an information
  • campaign
  • define objectives
  • explore options
  • conduct a survey

2.  Survey staff, using a suitable questionnaire (model questionnaires are contained in some of the published guidance)

3.  Establish general principles behind the policy.

4.  Agree options on practicalities covering

  • working areas
  • communal areas
  • compliance

5.  Consultation

6.  Submit (revised) policy and supporting information to appropriate internal decision- making body for endorsement/approval.

7.  Distribute policy to every employee

8.  Implement the policy. This may involve such considerations as follows:

  • timing responsibilities
  • briefing employees
  • publicising the policy signage
  • help for smokers
  • administering the policy


The publications listed in the References/Further Details section of this element contain extensive advice and guidance on the practicalities and experiences of introducing smoking policies.



Have you considered the benefits of introducing a smoking policy?

–  on health grounds YES /NO

–  on safety grounds YES /NO

–  in view of the increasing potential for criminal or civil litigation? YES /NO

–  on moral/public opinion grounds? YES /NO

If so, have you thought about the best way ofapproaching the task, of establishing a suitable policy and of implementing it in your premises? YES /NO

Do you know where to go for information, advice, support or resources on the development of smoking policies in the workplace? YES /NO

Do you protect non-smokers from discomfort causedby tobacco smoke in restrooms or rest areas? YES /NO


  1. HSE: Advice on smoking at work
  2. Video Signposts for health and safety Part 3. HSE.   ISBN 0 717 61961 3