Considerations in Establishing a Smoking Policy

HR policies always balance competing challenges. In the case of a smoking policy, the organization may have an interest in promoting employee health, improving satisfaction of the non-smoking employees while needing to respect personal choices. Avoiding excessive paternalism may also color how the policy is constructed and presented.

The best approach to this situation is to treat the topic in the most positive light possible through understanding of the challenges of smokers. Incentivizing and supporting smoking cessation is will be a key to a positive stance. On the other hand, nudging employee behavior through controlling smoking on site is important in setting the tone.

Smoking Cessation

Before a smoking policy is enacted, alignment with benefits program must be reached.  The cessation benefit is a choice by the employer with several options available, ranging from full coverage of over the counter and prescription programs to a level of coverage more aligned with other medical conditions.

Deciding the level of coverage depends on the costs and the statement the organization is trying to make to smokers. This may make the beginning of a benefit year a good time to kick off a new smoking program. Discussions with benefit providers can provide the needed detail.

Banning Smoking on Company Property

While few organizations allow smoking inside of building, a decision still needs to be made concerning smoking on the property. Several site-specific factors go into this decision, including;

  • Does a safety risk exist if smokers illicitly smoke on site?
  • Do smokers need to clock out of the workplace to smoke?
  • Is there a safe place off the company property to smoke?
  • Will workers smoking off site be a nuisance to neighbors?

Each of these considerations and others will need to be answered before a policy can be enacted. For employers with multiple locations, the answers may vary by site. In such cases, a performance oriented policy may be more appropriate than a specification policy.

Involvement and Timing Smoking policies are emotional and complex. Therefore, input and the greatest possible concurrence by smokers and by supervisors and management are critical. The implementation details may be complex, making a slow and careful approach the most beneficial.