Smoking Restrictions in the Workplace

This paper looks at the implementation of smoking restrictions in Canadian workplaces in an attempt to discover the impetus for these new policies and laws, as well as some of their social and legal implications.

Workplace smoking restrictions have come about because of new medical evidence claiming a real hazard to non-smokers from environmental tobacco smoke. Although this evidence is inconclusive with respect to healthy non-smokers, there is still enough suggestion of a long-term risk to warrant preventive action. The notion of restricting smoking has been popularized by an effective anti-smoking lobby, in turn, prompting employers and legislators to respond to the new public mood.

Case studies of the implementation of smoking policies by two Canadian employers revealed some of the difficulties involved in regulating personal behaviour and raised doubts about the effectiveness and enforceability of smoking policies.

A major implication of the legal and industrial relations issues is the fact that, despite the protection of individuals’ rights in the workplace, there is little existing law to protect the non-smoker or the smoker, but workplace legislation is quickly changing this for the non-smoker.

In light of the potential social impact on smokers and to improve the effectiveness of smoking policies, employers must combine workplace restrictions with supportive efforts in the implementation of these policies.

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