HR Support on Smoking Laws & Regulations

Editor's Note: Where there's smoking, there might be firing.

Ashley ShawOverview: It's well documented that smoking is a health hazard. Furthermore, second hand smoke may be more dangerous than actually smoking. Lawmakers are aware of this, and, in most states, they have banned smoking in many, if not all, public places. Workplaces are usually considered public.

Very rarely will an employer be allowed to let employees smoke freely while intermingling with their non-smoking co-workers. If there is not a law dictating this, the employer could still be held liable in a lawsuit for any second-hand smoke problems developed by the non-smoker forced to work in the smoking environment. Therefore, it is very important that employers create, and strictly enforce, smoking policies in the workplace.

Unless there is a legitimate business goal, the employer should be very careful about punishing or discriminating against an employee for smoking outside of work. Many states have laws that protect legal activities, such as tobacco use, when an employee is not at work. If the business purpose of the employer, however, is to prevent smoking or to prevent cancer (such as the American Cancer Society), it is often excepted from this law.

Employers can, on the other hand, offer help in quitting through their employee health program. Healthy employees are more productive employees, so offering, but not requiring, this help can benefit the employer.

Trends: E-cigarettes are growing in popularity as a means to quit smoking. Employers without a state or municipality law may decide to allow e-cigarettes in the workplace as a way to increase productivity. However, the health effects of these devices have not been evaluated and the smell may bother other employees. An employer should carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of these devices and then make a policy that states how they will be handled in their workplace.

Author: Ashley Shaw, JD, Legal Editor

Latest items in Smoking

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: New York

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    New York employers that have enclosed workplace areas and/or employees driving company-owned vehicles and that are seeking to inform employees that smoking is prohibited in the workplace and to demonstrate compliance with New York law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: Pennsylvania

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Pennsylvania employers with enclosed workplace areas seeking to inform employees that smoking is prohibited in the workplace and to demonstrate compliance with Pennsylvania law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: Oklahoma

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Oklahoma employers with enclosed workplace areas should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: Florida

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Florida employers with enclosed workplace areas seeking to inform employees that smoking is prohibited in the workplace and to demonstrate compliance with Florida law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: Texas

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Texas employers seeking to prohibit smoking in enclosed workplace areas or restrict smoking to certain designated areas should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: Georgia

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Georgia employers with enclosed workplace areas should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: Maryland

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Maryland employers with an enclosed workplace seeking to advise employees that smoking is prohibited in the workplace and demonstrate compliance with Maryland law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: Alaska

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Alaska employers with workplaces open to the public or that seek to advise employees that smoking is prohibited in enclosed/indoor workplaces areas should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Employers seeking to encourage and promote good health and to clearly advise employees of the prohibition against smoking in the workplace should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Smoke-Free Workplace Handbook Statement: West Virginia

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    West Virginia employers with factories, mercantile establishments, mills or workshops seeking to prohibit smoking in the workplace, inform employees that smoking is prohibited in the workplace and demonstrate compliance with West Virginia law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.