Live updates

Is latest smoking ban a step too far?

Nottinghamshire County Council has told staff they are introducing a blanket ban on having a cigarette during the working day.

The ban is intended to apply to anyone in uniform - even on the way to work. But is this latest attack on smokers a step too far? We sent Martin Fisher to Mansfield to find out.

Smokers' group Forest criticises 'intrusive' smoking break ban

Smokers' group Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) has criticised Nottingham County Council's decision to ban employees from taking smoking breaks, describing it as "a gross intrusion in people's personal freedom."

Director Simon Clark says employers have "no business" prohibiting employees smoking outside working hours when they are not even on the premises.

Under the proposals being considered, smoking will be allowed during lunch breaks but not in uniform or anywhere near council property.

A good employer recognises that everyone is different and has different ways of coping with the stresses and strains of a working day.

Everyone is entitled to a break. How people spend it should be up to them. Some drink coffee, others choose to smoke. Rightly or wrongly, many smokers believe it relaxes them and helps them refocus.

Disciplining employees for smoking on their to way to and from work is a gross intrusion in people's personal freedom.

Employees are entitled to a private life and as long as their habit doesn't interfere with their ability to do their job, employers have no business prohibiting them smoking outside working hours when they're not even on the premises.

– Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest

Advertisement

Smoking ban council wants to 'protect the health of employees'

Nottinghamshire County Council says its decision to ban staff from taking smoking breaks has been made so it can protect their health.

Credit: Press Association

In a statement, Deputy Director of Public Health John Tomlinson says that the Council has signed the Nottinghamshire and Nottingham Tobacco Declaration which mean it must take action against tobacco to improve the health of staff.

Mr Tomlinson says the Council wants to encourage Nicotine Replacement Therapy at work and feels encouraging staff to give up smoking would make them better role models for their children.

We are trying to be a supportive employer and have a duty of care to protect the health of our employees as part of a wider remit to take a leading role in promoting better health in Nottinghamshire.]

We want to support staff by encouraging them to use Nicotine Replacement Therapy at work. The cost of Nicotine Replacement Therapy is cheaper than cigarettes so we are not asking staff to spend more money than usual.

National research suggests that staff who smoke take more time off work to have breaks and have more sick leave through respiratory problems.

Another reason for encouraging staff to give up smoking is that they become better role models for their children and the children are less likely to start smoking in the first place if their parents are non-smokers.

– John Tomlinson, Deputy Director of Public Health, Nottinghamshire County Council

Council considers employee smoking break ban

Smoking breaks will be banned for thousands of council employees under new proposals.

Nottinghamshire County Council is proposing a total smoking ban for staff

Nottinghamshire County Council has said its 9,000 employees will be barred from smoking during work time with the ban extending to e-cigarettes, in the mooted plans.

Anyone who fails to stick to the rules could face internal disciplinary action.

The local authority said the ban, to include all council buildings, land and vehicles, was aimed at boosting its workers' health, increasing time spent working and reducing levels of sick leave.

But the largest public sector union Unison has said the stringent rules will be unenforceable and has urged the council to support smokers in quitting rather than haul wayward employees into disciplinary meetings.

The council's deputy director of public health John Tomlinson said smoking was still "public health's number one enemy" and the local authority had committed itself to action.

"We are trying to be a supportive employer and have a duty of care to protect the health of our employees as part of a wider remit to take a leading role in promoting better health in Nottinghamshire.

"If you asked 100 smokers if they wanted to give up, 70 of them would want to.

"With this in mind we want to encourage staff to attend smoking cessation services.

"If they don't want to give up smoking they will get withdrawal symptoms at work because of their nicotine addiction."

– John Tomlinson, Nottinghamshire's deputy director of public health

The council has said it will encourage staff to use alternatives like nicotine patches to kick their habit, arguing the cost to its staff would be cheaper than a packet of cigarettes.

"National research suggests that staff who smoke take more time off work to have breaks and have more sick leave through respiratory problems.

"Another reason for encouraging staff to give up smoking is that they become better role models for their children and the children are less likely to start smoking in the first place if their parents are non-smokers."

– John Tomlinson Nottinghamshire's deputy director of public health

The council has about 9,000 employees across all its departments, excluding teachers.

Employees get a short morning and afternoon break, but no smoking will be allowed during these periods under any ban.

Smoking will be allowed during lunch breaks but not in uniform or anywhere near council property, according to the union, Unison.

"We're supportive of public health and we haven't got a stance on this, but we are balloting members asking whether they would be for or against.

"I don't see yet how they could enforce it. Say you work in highways, if you want to smoke, you need to take all your uniform off and go as far away from site as possible and have a cigarette and then come back.

"You're not going to be able to smoke in your uniform, or if you're standing outside your council workplace or are wearing a council badge or lanyard.

"If you're in the parks department, you won't be able to - even when you're outside.

"If anybody goes out on council business and drives their own car, they won't be able to smoke."

– Brian Fitzpatrick, Unison services conditions officer

Unions will discuss the proposals with the council in the autumn, with the ban expected to come into force early next year.

Advertisement