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Passive Smoking At Work

By: Ross Wigham - Updated: 13 Jan 2017 | comments*Discuss
Smoking At Work Passive Smoking

Passive smoking at work is thought to be responsible for more than 700 deaths every year, with second-hand smoke twice as lethal as all other types of workplace accidents.

Staff in the hospitality sector, particularly those working behind a bar, are at the most risk with more than 49 killed every year through passive smoking.

However, the days of smoky pubs and workplaces are numbered after politicians is the UK voted overwhelmingly to ban smoking in virtually all enclosed places in Britain.

The Smoking Ban is now active in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with England last to enforce the ban from July 1st 2007.

The Dangers of Passive Smoking

Although there are some scientific arguments around the issue there is little doubt that passive smoke poses a massive risk to employees.

Staff working in areas where smoking has been permitted have inhaled a large cocktail of chemicals made up of mainstream smoke exhaled by smokers and sidestream smoke from the burning tips of cigarettes and cigars.

Because the vast majority of workplaces banned smoking indoors before the 2007 smoking ban came into force, employees working in pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants have faced the biggest risks from passive smoking.

Some research suggests that second-hand smoke is actually more dangerous because those exposed to it are breathing in unfiltered cigarette smoke.

It exposes workers to a whole range of dangerous chemicals including nicotine, benzene, carbon monoxide, ammonia, cyanide and formaldehyde. This type of smoke also contains carcinogenic chemicals which can cause a range of cancers and Related Diseases.

In the latest study by Professor Konrad Jamrozik, formerly of Imperial College London, it is estimated that passive smoking at work kills two people every day or about a fifth or all people dying because of exposure.

Passive smoking or environmental tobacco smoke can cause a range of diseases including lung cancer and heart problems, as well as making existing conditions like asthma even worse.

According to the TUC second hand smoke at work is bad for businesses too, with tobacco-related illness costing British industry more than 50 million workdays each year.

The Law Around Passive Smoking at Work

It is now illegal to smoke in any enclosed public space, as of July 1st 2007 which includes all working environments.

A man in Scotland was awarded a fixed penalty fine of £50 for smoking inside his cab, as this too is classed as a working environment.

The Smoking Ban

Workers in Scotland have been protected by a total smoking ban which was introduced to all enclosed public places including pubs and restaurants in March 2006.

The Republic of Ireland has had full smoking ban since 2004, while workers in Northern Ireland a ban came in to force in April 2007.

Wales has also introduced a total ban on smoking in enclosed public places, while England has also introduced a total ban in all enclosed spaces since 1st July 2007.

Smoke-Free Working Conditions

There is a far larger bulk of research covering workers from the United States where several cities have already implemented smoking bans in public places.

Air samples taken in bars after the introduction of a complete ban showed a 90% drop in pollution, while hospitality workers tested for nicotine by-products showed a drop of 85% following the ban.

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[Add a Comment]
My co workers smoke in our tool shed and it's disgusting. Not sure how to approach this . It's a room which is part of the building and where we have a break
Westi - 13-Jan-17 @ 7:32 PM
jane - Your Question:
Where I work, the workers clock out at 5pm. they then walk up the long drive/entrance and past the front of the building smoking and across to the company car park smoking and get in their cars. is this legal to do just because they have clocked out. They are still on company premises. I thought they were only allowed to smoke in the designated area.

Our Response:
Yes it's only buildings and vehicles that the ban refers to. Smokers are generally allowed to do so outside unless their owm company policy says not to.
SafeWorkers - 21-Apr-16 @ 11:48 AM
where I work, the workers clock out at 5pm. they then walk up the longdrive/entrance and past the front of the building smoking and across to the company car park smoking and get in their cars.. is this legal to do just because they have clocked out. They are still on company premises. I thought they were only allowed to smoke in the designated area.
jane - 20-Apr-16 @ 7:10 AM
I have a disability and receive support, the contract for the two support workers stated they must be non-smokers because I have chronic asthma. One of the workers started smoking, he smokes on his way to work, I spent the first couple of hours in work coughing and wheezing. My employers have told me I need to get a letter from my consultant before they can take it further. This is very frustrating and the law appears to favour the smoker.
Mikey - 13-Mar-16 @ 5:40 PM
I work as a carer in my clients own home, where both spouses smoke! I find it hard to believe this is allowed. Just wonder are they liable if carers become ill because of the passive smoking they are subjected to daily?
Mia - 27-Dec-15 @ 4:42 PM
I to work in care were a lady I care for has 24 hours care in her own home that smokes about 50-55 cigarettes a day. I am not a smoker an find it hard to breath sometimes, she does not allow windows or doors to be opened or for us to sit in another room. Is there anything that protects me ?
lady - 18-Nov-15 @ 9:47 AM
@Sam. Unfortunately working in private homes of individuals eg to provide care etc is not covered by the non smoking laws. If you feel your health is at risk you should raise this with your employer to see if there are any measures that could be put in place to alleviate that risk.
SafeWorkers - 20-May-15 @ 2:04 PM
I work in social care with mental health clients who need 24 hour care in there own homes. Some clients smoke between 50 to 60 cigarettes per day . although this is our workplace it is also the clients home. Were do we stand regarding staying healthy abd free from passive smoke.
sam - 17-May-15 @ 1:06 PM
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