Smoking Policy

Last reviewed on 17/04/2013 15:34

This page gives information on developing smoking policies for the workplace and why they benefit organisations and individuals.

You will also find details of legal duties and obligations around smoking and links to support agencies and further information.

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Why have a workplace smoking policy?

Smoking is a major cause for concern within a workplace. It can have a direct impact on both smokers and non-smokers, and ultimately employers. In addition, most employers now have a legal responsibility to ensure that people do not smoke in the workplace.

Other issues include:

Absenteeism Smokers tend to have more sick leave than non-smokers.

Safety It is estimated that around 20% of workplace fires are started by cigarettes or discarded matches. This can lead to higher fire insurance premiums.

Keeping key personnel Smoking is an important contributory factor in Scotland's top three causes of death and major ill health: coronary artery disease, cancers and strokes. Losing employees due to these illnesses can have a major impact on a workplace.

Staff morale Many non-smokers dislike working in a smoky environment. This can often lead to conflict. Non-smokers whose health is affected by the effects of passive smoking may take legal action against the employer.


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Environmental tobacco smoke and passive smoking

Passive smoking is simply the breathing in of environmental tobacco smoke, whether it is smoke from burning tobacco, or smoke which is exhaled by smokers. Passive smoking can also aggravate conditions such as asthma and some allergies.

In 1998 the Government's Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health published a report widely known as the SCOTH Report.

→ View the Report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, 1998 (external site)

The report concluded that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is a cause of lung cancer, and in those with long-term exposure, the increased risk is in the order of 20-30%.

The report recommended that smoking in public places should be restricted on grounds of public health and wherever possible, smoking should not be allowed in the workplace.


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Legal duties and obligations around smoking

As well as the moral duty of employers to protect employees and members of the public, General Health and Safety Legislation covers all employers and workplaces.

This includes protecting employees and the public from risks associated passive smoking.

In addition, the following legislation relates specifically to smoking:

The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 The Prohibition of Smoking in Certain Premises (Scotland) Regulations 2006 The Act and Regulations above were introduced to save lives and prevent diseases caused by passive smoking. The legislation effectively bans smoking in all wholly or partially enclosed premises, with a few exceptions.

The Clearing the Air Scotland website offers good advice on the law and other aspects of the legislation. It includes information on where the ban applies and other issues such as signage, penalties and enforcement.

→ Visit the Clearing the Air Scotland website (external site)


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Developing a smoking policy

Some people may question the need for a workplace smoking policy when smoking is already banned in most workplaces.

Whether smoking is banned or not in your premises, a policy makes clear what the organisation expects from employees. A good policy will also cover issues like support for those who may wish to stop smoking. A policy is recommended for those premises where smoking is still allowed.

Developing a policy can be a relatively simple process. Listed are key steps for you to take:

1. Consult with your employees. Large organisations may wish to form a special task group consisting of representatives from management, trade unions and staff, including representation of both smokers and non smokers reflecting staff smoking levels within the organisation. It is important that a senior manager 'champions' the initiative. Small businesses may simply discuss the issue with all of their employees at regular meetings.

2. Obtain the views of all employees. Large organisations may wish to conduct a survey, whereas small businesses may take on views by discussing issues directly with their employees.

3. Devise a draft policy. Sample policies can be found in many of the resources listed below in our section on further information.

4. Ensure that all employees receive a letter detailing the proposed policy. This can be simply done by attaching the letter to an employee's pay slip/wage packet. Give employees the opportunity to comment on, and propose changes to the policy.

5. Revise the policy Give employees copies of the revised policy and notice of when it will be introduced. The minimum period of notice is usually 12 weeks, or the period of notice stipulated in the employment contract.

6. Implement the policy After the appropriate period of notice, implement the policy. Visually promote the policy using appropriate signs and posters.

7. Review the policy regularly.


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Key elements of a smoking policy

A policy should:

  • be a written statement so as to ensure that there is no misunderstanding regarding it
  • regard no-smoking as the norm, not the other way around. Non-smokers should be protected from exposure to passive smoking at all times
  • explicitly state where and when smoking is allowed, if the policy is not a blanket ban
  • state how the policy will be enforced
  • provide help and support for those smokers who wish to stop smoking
  • provide all employees with education on key issues surrounding smoking.


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Smoking cessation support agencies

Local Health Boards Most Health Boards have a range of specialists including those from health promotion and occupational health who can provide help. Contact your Local Health Board to find out what's available in your area (look under 'Health' in your local telephone directory).

A number of other organisations also offer support for those who want to quit:

ASH Scotland Action on Smoking and Health Scotland provides an extensive range of information leaflets, briefing papers and sample policies. → Visit the ASH Scotland website (external site)

CanStopSmoking local stop smoking services listings Health Scotland's CanStopSmoking mini-site includes listings of local support agencies. → Visit the CanStopSmoking listings page (external site)

Smokeline – 0800 84 84 84 Smokeline is the free, national, confidential helpline for those who wish to stop smoking or to learn more about stopping smoking.


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Your questions on smoking

What is meant by 'no-smoking premises'?

As part of my job I often visit the homes of smokers. What should my employer be doing to protect my health?

Further information on smoking and work

Resources from Health Scotland Note: links are to pages on the Health Scotland website giving options to download these publications. They are also available to order from your local health board.

Other books

  • No Smoke Without Fire – The Complete Guide to a Smoke-Free Workplace. Seymour, L. and Leighton, P., WBC Book Manufacturers, Bridgend, 1995. ISBN 1-85252-285-2.


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