The Consequences of Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke (SHS) is the smoke that comes from both the end of a burning cigarette or other tobacco product, and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. The smoke from the end of a burning cigarette is unfiltered and contains twice as much tar and nicotine as the smoke inhaled through a filter.
The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to SHS.
SHS contains about 70 cancer-causing chemicals, and hundreds are toxic1
SHS has been associated with many of the same health problems as smoking.
Employee’s Benefits of a Tobacco-Free Workplace2
A tobacco-free workplace allows for a healthier, safe and more welcoming environment
- Promotes good morale
- Lower absenteeism due to SHS-caused illness and discomfort.
- Encourages those who smoke to try to quit
- Helps lower the cost of health and life insurance3
Employer’s Benefits of a Tobacco-Free Workplace2
Helps promote a more positive public image
May eliminate disability claims based on secondhand smoke exposure
Reduces potential legal liability
Optimizes performance and productivity4
Lowers turnover, the cost for recruitment and retraining due to death and disability
Lowers the risk of fires4
Lower fire and property insurance premiums
Reduces facility maintenance costs associated with the damage caused by cigarettes on carpets, furniture, walls and office equipment4
Connecticut Laws on Smoking in the Workplace5
Under the Connecticut General Statute Section 19a-342, all buildings owned or leased and operated by the state or any political subdivision, health care institutions, restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, retail food stores, schools and elevators must be smoke-free.
Connecticut General Statute Section 31-40q discusses smoking in the workplace.
- Employers with less than five employees must establish one or more work areas sufficient to accommodate any worker who requests to work in a non-smoking area.
- Signs shall be posted to designate non-smoking work areas.
- Signs must be prominently posted and maintained and removal is punishable by law.
- Physical barriers and ventilation systems shall be used to the extent practicable to minimize the effect of smoking in adjacent non-smoking areas.
- Employers with five or more employees must prohibit smoking in any business facility under their control, except the employer may designate one or more smoking rooms.
- The employer must also provide sufficient non-smoking break rooms for their non-smoking employees.
- Each smoking room designated must meet the following requirements:
- Air from the smoking room shall be exhausted directly to the outside by an exhaust fan.
- No air shall be recirculated into any part of the building.
- The ventilation standard shall comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act or the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.
- The smoking room shall be located in a non-work area where no employee is required to enter as part of their work duties.
- The smoking room is for employees only.
All employers can choose to make the whole establishment smoke-free: employees have no right to smoke. Smoking areas are not required in any building.
If an employee requests a non-smoking area and the employer does not comply, the employee can file a complaint with the Connecticut Department of Labor, Wage and Workplace Standards Division by calling 860-263-6790.
Federal Laws on Smoking in the Workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed to ensure employers provide a safe workplace to all employees, free of dangers. In Connecticut, the Department of Labor handles complaints regarding smoking in the workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)6 ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment
- Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment by businesses having 15 or more employees.
- People with a documented condition, such as impaired breathing due to asthma, may qualify as disabled under the ADA.
- An employer must provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability.
- A smokefree policy would be considered a reasonable accommodation in this situation.
- Failure to make a reasonable accommodation constitutes a form of discrimination.
- If an employee suffers from a serious medical condition caused or aggravated by tobacco smoke, and
- the employer has acted discriminately against the employee within the past six months (e.g. allowed smoking to continue), and
- the employee has talked to and written to the employer regarding their rights provided by the ADA, attempting to negotiate a resolution to no avail, then
- employment complaints against private employers may be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
EEOC Boston Area Office
John F. Kennedy Federal Building
Government Center, Room 475
Boston, MA 02203
Additional information is available at eeoc.gov
The bottom line is, everyone wins with a Tobacco-Free Workplace7
- Everyone benefits when the air is cleared of secondhand smoke - even smokers, some of whom will quit smoking or at least cut back. Workers become healthier, and healthier workers miss less work, are more productive, and have lower health care costs.
- The American Productivity Audit, a national survey of over 29,000 workers, found that tobacco use was a leading cause of worker lost production time—greater than alcohol abuse or family emergencies. Quitting smoking, or even just cutting back, improves a worker’s productivity.
What about the workers who smoke?7
Adopting a smoke-free policy is not passing judgment on smokers and it does not mean workers who smoke are unwelcome. Providing cessation assistance to smokers who try to quit as a result of the policy can increase acceptance of the policy. It is also the best way to make sure that your business maximizes the potential health benefits and cost savings of this policy.
If you provide health insurance or health maintenance organization (HMO) coverage, check to see if your policy covers cessation services (including counseling and medication). If it does not, look into adding coverage for cessation services; this is the most cost-effective benefit you can offer your workers.
Other things you can do to increase smokers’ chances of quitting include:
To help promote your smoke free policies we have window clings and 12” x 8” aluminum signs available free of charge.
For more information regarding tobacco-free workplaces please refer to the clean indoor air section of this site.