Smoke breaks taken by Office Employees

I was confronted with a dilima where previous Management allowed employees to take ad hoc smoke breaks, which meant that when the craving came, they went!  Not only the Office workers but also the factory employees, they would pop outside and puff-away.. If an office worker takes a smoke break it holds up their work. If a production worker takes a break, production is covered by a mate, if the foreman spots him he gets reprimanded . Not a cool situation.


As a smoker myself, I did not smoke during working hours, New Environmental Lesgislation then required employers to construct sheltered smoking areas with disposal facilities for the cigerette buts etc.

A meeting was then convened to discuss the new legislation and its implications.

In order to accomodate smokers the added costs barring the downtime of the employee just taking off, to me, it was ludicious, new construction, cleaner for smoking stations etc


I then threw a spanner in the works by pointing out that unless all smoking during working hours was stopped the company would indirectly be  allowing discrimination, - if the smokers were allowed to take say 20 minutes a day out for smoking, what is to stop a non smoker stepping out for 20 minutes?

Is that not a form of discrimination.  (This was in the UK).

In the end it was decided that all area including the grounds and parking lots were none smoking areas. It was worked out fine eventually, once the full implecation of all these unplanned smoke breaks had on production, costs, descrimination to non smokers regarding the time out etc was explained to the smokers they agreed it was an unfair pratice. (You could spot the smoke filled cars in the parking lot at lunch time, (weather permiting of course).


The memory of this just sprang to mind when walking through the CBD  and seeing office workers outside the building or on the corners during working hours and wondered what the local thinking was on this practice?


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Comment by Chris Hersov on June 27, 2012 at 13:15

CBM Training is currently running a program to help employees to stop smoking. It is a 90 min session for 15 people and above and comes with loads of extras to help people give up. We have been having a lot of success with this, (My own marketing manager has given up when I used him as a guinea pig). We offer this to many of our corporates as part of their wellness programs, supported with posters and stats for work time lost. If anyone would like more details for their own company or their clients, please e-mail the above marketing manager on

Comment by Gail Dawson on January 27, 2011 at 11:48

Thank you everyone for your input and advice!! I acknowledge Des's information regarding the Law making provision for the protection of non-smokers, and the possibility of Designated smoking areas. Should a company decise it would designate a smoking area: A allocation of space with adaquate ventilation must be provided, Health and Safety regulations then come into play, fire extinguishers etc., extra cleaning, all and expense to accomodate a vice, which, when each smoker looks deep inside themselves, they realy do not like the "smoking concept" but enjoy the feeling they get when smoking! I feel that if a company is will to invest in their employees monies would be well spent on something holistic which will benefit everyones wellbeing. I introduced a library in an organization, a topics discussion panel, (certain contentious topics were not permitted. We discussed everything, from why we pay taxes, to breastfeeding and constipation. The results were fantastic everyone bonded, even top management came to the canteen for their lunches.

The staff did not feel the need to walk round the shops anything to get away, taking your mind of the stress revives the mind, body and soul. Build the spirit and it will soar.

Comment by Wilma de Villiers on January 26, 2011 at 21:22

We had a secretary that told everybody that she NEVER took a lunch break and how hard she works.

What she did not tell is that she took a 10 minute smoke break almost every hour!!!  To her the smoke breaks did not count and she was proud that she 'never took a lunch break".


I feel that at companies where people can take a smoke break whenever they want to, non-smokers should be allowed to leave work an hour earlier every day OR get paid more!!!!

Ps I wonder what smokers' reaction would be!


Comment by David Janus on January 26, 2011 at 9:45
I think that, on regularly scheduled breaks (tea time, etc) and during lunch that if people want to smoke they should be able to smoke in designated areas - but not be able to just go and smoke whenever and wherever they want.

However, if the company has to construct new shelters etc just so people can smoke then I agree with the OP's plan of action - no smoking at all - a cost of that much to the company is dumb just so people can indulge a bad habit.

If the people in the company who do smoke would be willing to contribute to paying the costs of these shelters then that should be tabled and a plan agreed upon.
Comment by Kevin Marlow on January 26, 2011 at 8:30
I have worked for a number of companies (production and non production)and the solution has been rather simple and that is smokers utilise their tea and lunch breaks in designated areas as per the Health regulations. The same has been applied where internet access has been allowed and is monitored. Employees receive itemised billing of their extentions and have to account for telephone usage.
Comment by moshawa modise on January 25, 2011 at 17:30

Hi Gail,

I would not say that I qualify to comment on this matter because I have not smoked in my life. Having said that, I guess we need to see some compromise and this implies, what the law says and an add-on with respect to what is best for the team/s. I think the non-smokers need to be considerate and avoid asking for the same breaks that the smokers need regarding breaks.

I do a lot of training sessions and at some point [ say 10 year ago ] we had about 90 % of attendees smoking and thus requesting regular breaks. This has now changed, that nowadays there is about 10 % or less  smokers in class. Let alone this trend , we normally have boi -breaks and most of the non-smokers do remain in the room and network whilst other colleagues are out. In a nutshell, I think the Management and Supervisors are not well capacitated to deal with the matter. This is a matter that empowered self-directed teams will handle very well.

All of the BEST !  

Comment by Willem Velthuizen on January 25, 2011 at 12:23
It is tough and I know as an ex smoker but the only solution is controlling the time spent on smoking. There is no difference between smoking,internet abuse, kitchen and ablution usage or private phone calls (cellphones included). It is all productivity killers and is covered by poor work performance disciplinary should the rights be abused. Clocking in and out can monitor time spent on smoke breaks and if abused action must be taken as long as the same policy is in place for the other time wasters.
Comment by Sean Bowes on January 25, 2011 at 11:42
This is good input, as in our company there are numerous complaints of smokers taking extra time off.  I agree that if smokers get 20 minutes a day, then so should non-smokers.  However, it would be much more beneficial to a company to not allow smoking at all during working hours.
Comment by Johan van der Merwe on January 25, 2011 at 11:37
As an employer myself, I must remind you that a happy employee is the most productive. Find a compromise that suits all. To implement clever rules to try and up productivity will have a negative effect and your productivity will decrease.
Comment by Hannetjie Hock on January 25, 2011 at 10:36

Always a contentious issue, depending on which side of the fence you are...

One must just remember that to state that only non-smokers may apply when advertising posts is also a form of unfair discrimination. 

The best policy would still be to apply a system of deducting time or stating that smoking is to be done during lunch/tea breaks.

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