Going Tobacco-Free is Important
Place-based policies are smoke- and tobacco-free policies that are customized for a particular type of location. These policies go a long way to helping reduce the threat tobacco poses to the health of our communities. In fact, smoke-free and tobacco-free policies have been shown to be effective in reducing secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco use among populations.¹
Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S.2 And it’s important to remember that smoking doesn’t only affect the health of the smoker. According to U.S Surgeon General, there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke, so even brief exposure can cause immediate harm. For this reason, smoke-free laws that prohibit smoking have been passed to fully protect nonsmokers from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace.2,5
You can be a leader by implementing smoke-free or tobacco-free policies to create a safer, healthier and more productive workplace. Worksites are often ideal settings to encourage healthy living, as adults commonly spend the majority of their time on the job.
Implementing a smoke-free or tobacco-free policy in the workplace can also help improve the financial health of an organization. Studies show that employers could save an average of $5,000 for each resident who uses tobacco annually.6 Some of these savings may include:
- Reduced direct healthcare costs.3
- Reduced insurance costs because of a lower risk of fires and accidental injuries.3,4
- Reduced maintenance costs.4
- Increased return on due to increased productivity and job satisfaction.6
- Reduced absenteeism due to tobacco related illness.4
A clear company policy about smoking and using smokeless tobacco at work benefits both employees who use tobacco and mangers because it provides a clearly defined process for dealing with tobacco in the workplace.
There are numerous benefits for employees when an organization makes their health a priority and implements smoke-free and tobacco-free policies. These policies can:
- Reduce exposure for employees who don’t use tobacco by an average of 72%.6
- Reduce involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke.3
- Encourage reduction of daily usage for employees who use tobacco.
- Increase the number of successful quit attempts.6
- Financially benefit employees who use cigarettes—on average those who smoke a pack-a-day would save $1,825 each year.6
By implementing smoke-free and tobacco-free policies at the workplace, employers can improve the health of both employees who do and do not use tobacco.
The Role of WellSpots
At Well-Ahead, we’ve seen firsthand that smoke-free and tobacco-free environments are a critical component of healthy environments. Through our statewide WellSpot program, we work with places and organizations in Louisiana that are working to make it easier for residents to live well.
We work closely with leaders at worksites, child care centers, schools, colleges and universities, restaurants, hospitals, healthcare facilities and faith-based organizations on tailored wellness benchmarks to become a designated WellSpot. As a key benchmark for leveling up in all organizations, implementing tobacco-free policies make a big difference in moving Louisiana’s health forward.
Big Picture: Consider your goals and who will be involved.
- Identify the goals of the policy.
- Identify what the policy will do to meet the goals.
- Collect information and statistics to show how the policy will meet the goals and address the identified problem.
- Identify and involve key stakeholders.
- Identify who will be expected to follow the policy and how to educate them once it passes.
Details: Review logistics and ramifications.
Has this or a similar policy been implemented elsewhere?
- Consider whether other similar efforts have been successful. If not, why not?
- Note what factors might not be the same for your location (for example, state or local laws, stakeholders, community needs, etc.)
- Determine if there are any concerns regarding the authority to adopt the policy.
- Evaluate whether state or federal laws preempt the policy.
- Investigate whether there are any other legal considerations.
- Determine who will be in charge of enforcing the new policy (and consider whether this group is a key stakeholder). Determine what the penalties will be for not following the policy. Consider what can be done to solve any enforcement challenges.
- Consider the financial cost and benefits of the problem compared to those of the intervention.
- Determine if there is capacity to adopt and implement the policy (e.g., staff time, funding for education about the policy and other resources).
- Decide how you will know if the policy is successful or effective.
- Consider whether there is capacity to defend the policy if challenged in court.
- Can you anticipate and address any unintended consequences? Check if any terms or rules are likely to be misunderstood or misinterpreted.
- Can you identify and correct loopholes? Ensure that any expectations are no broader than intended. Check that definitions don’t accidentally leave out an important group or category.
Elements of an Effective Policy: Review the Louisiana Tobacco Control legislation.¹¹
What does a tobacco-free policy cover?
A comprehensive tobacco-free policy prohibits tobacco use on company or organization property. For any properties that are owned, the policy must cover the entire property, including parking lots and company vehicles. For properties that are leased, the policy must cover 25 feet from each entry point of the business or office space. Exceptions may be made when a property is connected to other properties that the owner or lessee has no control over.
Steps for Preparing a Tobacco-Free Policy
Once organizations have done due diligence related to going smoke-free or tobacco-free, the process of creating a place-based policy can begin.
1. Set Up a Committee to Oversee the Process
- The committee will assist with development of policy and implementation.
- Include representation from all levels including top management and workers, both employees that do and do not use tobacco.
2. Gather Information to Educate Workers and Eventually Entire Workforce
- Survey workers for concern and questions.
- Review current tobacco policy, if there is one.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of the organization that may impact implementation of the policy.
- Review best practices and lessons learned from other companies that have implemented tobacco-free policies.
3. Choose Your Policy
- Assess the surveys in Step 2 to decide which type of policy to implement.
- If you are not able to move directly to a comprehensive tobacco-free policy, move to a comprehensive smoke-free policy first, then make a plan to transition to a comprehensive tobacco-free policy.
4. Write the Policy
- Keep it clear and simple with few exceptions, if any.
- Set up an enforcement policy that is consistent with other personnel policies and disciplinary policies.
- Include these elements:
- Provides rationale for tobacco use policy
- Prohibits tobacco use on company premises (all facilities owned, leased, or rented by the company, including parking lots)
- Does not include designated smoking areas
- Defines tobacco to include all types of smoking and smokeless tobacco products.
- Includes smoking devices (e-cigarettes)
- Requires referrals to tobacco cessation resources
- Requires enforcement for staff violations
- Prohibits tobacco use in company vehicles (if applicable)
- Prohibits promotion and/or sale of tobacco products (if applicable)
- Use these sample policies as guidance:
- 5. Provide Cessation Assistance
6. Announce the Policy
- If possible, this should take place several months in advance.
- Train managers to handle concerns, questions and infractions.
- Educate employees through signage, newsletters, emails, paycheck inserts, etc.
7. Prepare for the Start Date
- Post tobacco-free signage.
- Remove tobacco advertisements and vending.
- Remove ashtrays.
- If your property is leased, move receptacles to the designated distance outside of entrance as specified within your policy (primarily 25 feet from the entrance).
- Train staff to handle situations when the policy may be broken.
- Hold a kickoff event on the day the policy is to be implemented.
8. Monitor Policy Effectiveness
- Have managers report issues, questions, comments and concerns to the designated coordinator.
Common Questions Related to Geauxing Tobacco-Free
Well-Ahead has worked side-by-side with many large and small organizations as they’ve developed their smoke-free and tobacco-free policies. We have answers to the most commonly asked questions, regardless of the size of the organization.
Are there any laws prohibiting an employer to declare their campus tobacco-free?
No. Smoking is not a legally protected class and smoking is not a protected activity.12 A tobacco-free policy restricts the use of tobacco, not people who use tobacco. The state’s smoke-free air law does not restrict any parish, city or town from adopting stronger smoke-free local laws or regulations.13 Learn more about laws in place for people who use tobacco.
Note: This should not be construed as a legal opinion or substitute for obtaining legal advice.
How long does it take to go tobacco-free?
It typically takes approximately six months to move to a tobacco-free policy. The length of time could increase or decrease depending on the information gathered in steps 1-2 of preparing for a tobacco-free policy.
How do I communicate my policy to patrons of my organization?
Ensure tobacco-free signs are posted in visible areas around your property, especially in areas where tobacco use was prevalent previously.
What is the proper course of action if the policy is broken?
Whether the policy is broken by employees, or patrons of your organization, you need to have a plan of action in place. You can:
- Remind patrons or employees in a professional and courteous manner of the new company policy.
- Refer employees to the Louisiana Tobacco Quitline at quitwithusla.org or 1-800-QuitNow.
- Inform patrons that you have a new policy in effect while asking them to adhere to your policy.
- Add signage in areas of your property that may be experiencing challenges.
- Train your employees on how to talk to patrons regarding the new policy.
What is thirdhand smoke and what does it have to do with allowing employee smoke breaks?
Thirdhand smoke refers to the residual contamination from tobacco smoke that lingers in rooms and on a person after the smoking stops. According to a PNAS study in 2010, thirdhand smoke causes the formation of carcinogens. The only way to protect individuals from thirdhand smoke, is to create a smoke-free environment.14 Learn more about thirdhand smoke by visiting Mayo Clinic’s website or no-smoke.org.