How South Africa’s new smoking laws could change your work day

 ·27 Apr 2018

Government recently announced that it would be amending a number of  South Africa’s smoking laws.

Two of the biggest proposed changes include a zero-tolerance policy on in-door smoking in public places, as well as the requirement that smokers must be at least 10 metres away from public entrances.

While nearly every office in the country already has a zero-tolerance rule for smoking, its not uncommon for employees to ‘pop out’ for a minute or two to have a quick cigarette, while others continue to work at their desks.

This can lead to some conflict, and a recent case in Japan saw a company award non-smoking employees with six extra vacation days as a way of making amends and incentivising those who continue to smoke.

While an extra week of time off may sound like a lot, the USA recently estimated that smoking-related illnesses cost over $156 billion in lost productivity, including $5.6 billion as a result of secondhand smoke exposure.

E-cigarette company Halocigs recently surveyed over 1,000 Americans in various industries as to how they feel about smoke breaks in the workplace, and whether that time should be given to other employees as extra vacation days.

Over 81% of smokers said smoke breaks were fair, while only a quarter of non-smokers agreed. Perceptions of these breaks varied by industry, as well. Over 17% of medical and health care professionals who smoked, themselves, believed smoke breaks were fair.

Other industries with a more favorable opinion toward smoke breaks included wholesale and retail (nearly 15%), hotel, food services, and hospitality (about 12%), and education (over 11%).

More than 38% of smokers and nearly 20% of nonsmokers didn’t think nonsmokers deserved any additional vacation days. While roughly 1 in 4 nonsmokers suggested one or two extra vacation days was fair, nearly 42% said nonsmokers should be given between three and five additional vacation days each year.

More smokers (over 16%) than nonsmokers (nearly 14%) indicated nonsmokers should receive seven days or more of additional vacation time.

Days off

While the average smoker takes roughly six days of smoke breaks every year, time wasted on smoke breaks fluctuated greatly for Americans in various industries, the survey found.

Americans in technology, wholesale and retail, and finance and insurance spent more than an hour and 20 minutes each day on smoke breaks at work. Those breaks equated to over 40 hours a month and more than 20 days every year for each industry.

Jobs in these industries (including IT and financial managers) are often among the most stressful in the country, the survey found.

Other industries taking smoke breaks for more than one hour each day included transportation and warehousing, arts, entertainment, and recreation, information services and data processing, hotel, food services, and hospitality, and medical and health care.

Read: 5 big changes on the cards under South Africa’s new smoking laws in 2018

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