Trend: Companies Strengthen Stance Against Smoking


 Trend: Companies Strengthen Stance Against Smoking

Recently, a number of companies have made headlines for their more lenient policies towards smokers within the workplace. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Airbnb have been accused of "failing to protect" employees. That's right; employers now are pushing back against this trend towards smoking bans in the work place. If you're looking to start a career and would appreciate a non-smoking job, these companies might be worth considering.

At least for now.

While I think it's unlikely that the laws will be rolled back to allow smoking at work in the near future, it's still interesting to see how companies are responding to this trend. So who else has been targeted for being more lenient on smokers?

Google was among the first companies targeted by researchers for their relaxed smoking policies, which included designated "smoking areas" within buildings and even a year long period where they offered smokers free nicotine patches. In fact, as recently as three years ago Google had no real policy regarding smoking at work. It wasn't until last month that Google decided to finally ban smoking on all its campuses, putting into action a "new campus-wide policy prohibiting tobacco use anywhere on Google property. The policy came into effect on June 1, 2017." [1]

Facebook has been receiving similar pushback from both researchers and prospective employees who are concerned about secondhand smoke. According to one report by the BBC, "Facebook has come under fire for its relaxed approach to employees smoking cannabis at work," which it considers drug use because THC is considered a drug. [2] Facebook made the decision to "prevent employees from 'inhaling' cannabis in the office", but there was no official stance on smoking cigarettes at work.

A similar story emerged this month when Airbnb was accused of failing to protect employees from secondhand smoke. The complaint came from a single mom who claimed that her eight year old son became ill because of secondhand smoke at the Airbnb office. [3] According to reports, the mother had notified Airbnb management but they had not taken any action to remedy the situation. The incident took place at a shared working space called WeWork, where employees of Airbnb have access to office space.

Airbnb told media outlets that while it does allow smoking at work, there are no designated smoking areas and employees are encouraged "to smoke outside and away from entrances." Still, the company has come under fire for its lax policy towards secondhand smoke. [3]

So what does this mean? What are companies to learn from these cases of stress, and how can employees take advantage of the situation?

The first lesson that I see here is that while you may be able to push your employer on a smoking ban, they may not stick around forever. It's estimated that as many as 40% of American adults smoke, and this number doesn't include the individuals addicted to smoking who have no intention of giving it up. [4] In fact, tobacco consumption continues to rise for some groups despite countless efforts to reduce their numbers by major governmental bodies. [5] When it comes down to it, most employers wish for healthy workers and fewer sick days; and rightfully so.

The second lesson that I see here is that employees should be able to work from home whenever they are sick. Granted, this may not be the best choice for all employees if they are working for a large company (such as Google, Facebook, or Airbnb), but for those who can afford it, it's an option to consider. The point is that employers simply cannot give their workers the best working conditions; employees need to make sure that they provide those conditions themselves!

Lastly, there's a third lesson which I think is a "lesson of moderation." While smoking bans are popping up more and more around the US these days, we need to realize that they're not going away anytime soon. Within the near future, employers may start to become more lenient on smoking policies again as a way to push back against bans.

It's important for employees and prospective employees to be prepared for both scenarios and for employers to understand how these policies might affect them.

Should you find yourself working next to a smoker who is "accidentally" blowing smoke into your face, there are two ways that you can take action. The first is politely asking the person to stop, while the second may be taking legal action. Since most companies don't provide smoking areas outside of their building (that they are aware of), employers may have a difficult time proving that they take employee health seriously.

However, if you are working from home, make sure that you have a designated smoking area and consider purchasing a box fan to help push smoke away from your face. This will make it harder for you to prove an employer's negligence should anything arise in the future.

And lastly, always wear a filter or mask over your mouth. Some argue that exposure to secondhand smoke is harmless, but why risk it? Millions of American adults have been diagnosed with one illness or another when exposed to secondhand smoke, and even low levels of each toxin can take its toll on the human body over time.

As always, make sure that you are keeping up with the latest trends in the workplace. To stay up to date with the latest employment developments, sign up for my private newsletter, which is the first place I'll be sending out articles of interest. Until next time!



Many of you will be happy to hear that the secondhand smoke issue is being addressed in major cities across the US. The downside is that because there aren't any laws banning smoking inside, the best way to protect yourself is with an HRPA filter, mask, or a box fan. Be sure to keep up with our blog to be the first to know about how HRPA products can help you protect yourself against these issues!

Sources:, https://www.nytimes.

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