Smoking Prohibited?

Article excerpt

Now that anti-smoking regulations have become common in all areas of our lives, many non-smokers are becoming more vigilant about "second-hand smoke" in the workplace.

The actual dangers of second-hand smoke are still being debated: While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently asserted that up to 3,000 deaths are caused annually by second-hand smoke, critics of the report claim that such figures are based more on anti-smoking zealotry than on reality.

But whether the EPA report is to be believed or not, it has lent political popularity to anti-smoking regulations. The February 8, 1993 issue of Occupational Health & Safety noted that while OSHA currently has no rules regulating smoking in the workplace, the release of the EPA report has put pressure on the organization to begin developing anti-smoking regulations. Alfred Munzer, president-elect of the American Lung Association, noted: "Employers. . . should take heed. . . . They should prohibit smoking in their workplaces to protect the health of their workers but also to protect themselves from possible future liability." Legal experts predict that tobacco-related lawsuits will proliferate, with workers' comp claims among the cases heading the list.

In light of these developments, managers have asked us what they should do. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions.

WHEN ARE FEDERAL GUIDELINES LIKELY?

So far, as we indicated, OSHA has issued no guidelines on workplace smoking but some form of regulation is expected within the next two years. There already may be a state or community anti-smoking law on the books or under consideration. So you need to check with your state and local governments to find out what the law says now, and what it is likely to say in the near future. COULD I ANTICIPATE FUTURE REGULATIONS BY BANNING ALL SMOKING NOW?

Banning all smoking may seem the safest way to protect yourself against lawsuits or protests from anti-smokers, but it might be wise to consider the ramifications before you do that.

Some employees find their effectiveness is reduced if they are not allowed to smoke on the job, and no smoker has ever liked having to stand in the parking lot during coffee breaks. …