Passive Smoking At Work

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 over after politicians is the UK voted overwhelmingly to ban smoking in virtually all enclosed places in Britain.

The Smoking Ban has been active in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for many years. England was last to enforce the ban from July 1st 2007.


The Dangers of Passive Smoking at Work

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 lung diseases.


Deaths from Passive Smoking at Work

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 work vehicle 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.

19 thoughts on “Passive Smoking At Work

  1. M says:

    I work in an engineering factory where a number of lads smoke just inside the building on a daily basis. The smoke drifts up the workshop to where I work. I’ve spoke to the shopfloor manager & managing director a number of times over this issue & it’ll stop for a short while (a couple of weeks) then goes back to the same, it’s worse in winter months. No action or consequences take place.

  2. TAG says:

    We have Engineers entering properties where people smoke (cigarettes and weed). Is there anyway we can legally refuse for our Employees to enter these premises? Thanks

  3. susantrevino2 says:

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  4. Ger says:

    Hi , I work with a charity and we go and see people living in their own homes. I’m concerned about the level of contaminants in the air regards the chain smoking that the clients do. The client is asked to leave the room or smoke outside the house when we are in but you can taste the air in the house when you enter and I’ve read that 90% of the secondhand smoke is invisible. I usually wind up with a bad chest if my rota puts me in a couple of houses where there is a heavy smoker. Is there a duty of care on my employer to monitor the air quality as asking the client to step outside might work superficially but if the air is laden then I think it’s just window dressing. Thanks Ger

  5. Suekey says:

    Hi, I work as a stop smoking advisor and part of my job includes home visits. I have become increasingly concerned as most of the environments I spend my working days in are clients smoke filled homes. Does my employer (NHS) have a duty to protect me and should this be risk assessed? It was something I wasn’t aware of when applying for the job. Thanks Sue

  6. Jan says:

    Hi. I work in a mental health hospital where at least half the patients smoke in their bedrooms and we’re not allowed to take their cigs or lighters off them. We’ve reported it to management hundreds of times who don’t do anything. Sometimes we’ve used legal forms to be able to remove lighters but they just go out and get more or get them from Other patients. Or hide them. The ward stinks of smoke all the time and nobody sees to care. Any advice where to go next with this?

  7. Alex says:

    Hi I work as a truck driver and I share my truck with another driver who works a night shift (truck share if you will as I use it during the day). I don’t smoke and never have however the night driver seems to puff away on an e-cig throughout the night as the next morning I can smell it (my partner uses an e-cig so I know what to expect) and the windows on the inside are misted / foggy. I have complained to my employer on a number of occasions but it tends to fall on deaf ears, so I am wondering what my rights are for continuing to truck share, and if I have any rights at all regarding the issue. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  8. Somerset says:

    Hi I work in a factory but one of the employees stands just outside the opened door smoking and the smoke blows into the workshop have asked the boss to ask him to go across the yard but he never addresses it I have recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and when I breath in the second hand smoke it gives me stomach cramps and the boss still does nothing

  9. Katie says:

    Hi, I’ve ran into some problems at work regarding passive smoking. I work in a care Home and My main problem is the staff smoking in the doorway.Their smoke drifts into the building and Is really unpleasant.. I’ve asked them nicely and spoken to management who say they are meant to be a certain number of feet away from the door when smoking. Only problem is that this is rarely enforced. One of the residents al smokes. He is in a wheelchair so needs a designated smoking room, although the management have designated the kitchen as the smoking room as he can sit by the patio doors and direct his smoke outside. The kitchen is directly connected to open plan dining and living room. Does this comply with the legislation?

  10. Dave says:

    We work in a city centre office, a publuc building surrounded by other public buildings. The office is at street level therefore our exposure to secondary smoke of co-workers taking their smoke break directly outside the building, in doorways etc.is on a daily basis extremelya frequent. What protection does the ban offer non smokers exposed to secondary smoke?

    • Safe Workers says:

      @Dave – The law only states that businesses must make sure people don’t smoke in enclosed work premises or shared vehicles. It doesn’t really allow for second hand smoke in outdoor areas. You should make a representation to your employer to see if they are prepared to instigate any changes.

  11. Westi says:

    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

  12. jane says:

    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.

  13. Mikey says:

    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.

  14. Mia says:

    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?

  15. lady says:

    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 ?

  16. sam says:

    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.

    • Safe Workers says:

      @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.

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