Journal Article

Out of sight, out of mind: workplace smoking bans and the relocation of smoking at work

Odette Parry, Stephen Platt and Carolyn Thomson

in Health Promotion International

Volume 15, issue 2, pages 125-133
Published in print June 2000 | ISSN: 0957-4824
Published online June 2000 | e-ISSN: 1460-2245 | DOI:
Out of sight, out of mind: workplace smoking bans and the relocation of smoking at work

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As the cultural climate toward smoking changes, restrictive workplace smoking policies are becoming widely accepted by both employers and employees. There is, however, a crucial difference between those policies which accommodate reserved areas for smoking and those which do not. Smokers at work tend to prefer the former especially when the alternative is a total ban. An evaluation of a smoking ban implemented at a Scottish University in October 1997 suggests that the total ban is not only unpopular with smokers but also among non-smokers who experience unintended consequences of the new policy. The greatest complaint from non-smokers stems from the relocation of smoking to outside and particularly around the entrances to University buildings. This relocation has increased environmental pollution for those entering and leaving work, presents a poor image to outsiders and visitors, creates unsightly smoking debris and heightens the risk of fire. Furthermore, employees who smoke outside, in all weathers, have aroused the sympathies of a large number of their non-smoking colleagues. These unintended consequences have prompted many non-smoking staff to favour the reinstatement of reserved smoking areas inside work. In this article we argue, however, that this is not a sensible solution and that there may indeed be some advantage in increasing the visibility of smokers at work. In the short term non-smoking staff become more aware of the problems faced by smokers. In the longer term, this raised awareness may have implications for changing organizational attitudes to the provision of health intervention programmes at the University. Certainly, continuing organizational-based cessation support might demonstrate, alongside a restrictive smoking policy, a less punitive and more caring approach to the promotion of health-related behavioural change at work.

Keywords: programme evaluation; smoking; workplace health promotion policies

Journal Article.  5317 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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