Learn how your workplace can benefit by implementing smokefree policies and helping your employees to quit.
Smoking is not just a health issue; it’s also a social and business issue.
The indirect costs of smoking, such as lost productivity, often greatly exceed the direct costs to the health system.(1) A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis found robust evidence that smoking increases both the risk and number of sick days in working populations, regardless of location, gender, age, and occupational class.(2) In Australia, people who smoke are 1.4 times more likely to be absent from work than people who don't smoke.(3)
In 2015-16, the workforce costs of smoking on the Victorian economy were estimated to be approximately $1.68 billion per year, including costs associated with reduction in workforce ($693.4 million), absenteeism ($355.1 million) and smoking during work breaks ($632 million).(4)
Going totally smokefree, which means no smoking or vaping, is an important step your workplace can take to reduce the harms of tobacco smoke for staff, increase productivity and reduce absenteeism.
Benefits of smokefree workplaces
Smoking is the single leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia. Smoking kills two in three of all people who smoke long-term and accounts for almost 4,000 deaths in Victoria annually. Secondhand smoke is also harmful to health. It occurs when others breathe in the smoke from a person’s cigarette or from other tobacco products, such as cigars. There is no level of exposure to secondhand smoke that is free of risk. Medical evidence shows that exposure to secondhand smoke causes heart disease, stroke and lung cancer in non-smokers.
The health risks of vaping are still emerging, but most experts agree that vaping is likely to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and mouth and lung cancers. People who vape inhale toxic chemicals, heavy metals and fine particles, and these can be inhaled as 'secondhand aerosol' by the people around them. No-one yet knows what exposure to secondhand aerosol will cause in the long-term. However, there is enough evidence to be sure that secondhand aerosol can trigger immediate issues, such as coughing and asthma attacks.
Adhering to the law
The Tobacco Act 1987 (Vic) prohibits smoking and vaping in all enclosed workplaces. ‘Workplace’ means any premises or area where one or more employees or self-employed persons (or both) work, whether or not they receive payment for that work. For a comprehensive list of current smokefree laws, see Smoking and vaping: Victorian law and OH&S obligations
There are several financial benefits to going smokefree. These benefits can include reduced insurance costs, reduced risk of litigation and lower fire risk.
Several workplaces in Australia have banned e-cigarettes because of the risk of fires and explosions when devices malfunction.
The vast majority of Victorians do not smoke or vape. Providing totally smokefree environments protect staff and visitors from secondhand smoke from cigarettes and secondhand aerosol from e-cigarettes. National surveys report that the majority of the public strongly support bans on smoking in enclosed workplaces. Similarly, surveys of community attitudes to smoking bans in outdoor areas show high support for such measures.
National surveys have also shown that the public strongly supports bans on vaping in enclosed areas.
Cigarette butts and discarded e-cigarette devices negatively impact outdoor areas. Outdoor smoking and vaping bans may help to reduce litter and provide cost savings through reduced clean up and refurbishment costs.
Impact on people who smoke or vape
When smokefree policies are introduced into workplaces, people who smoke generally reduce how many cigarettes they smoke each day. Smokefree workplaces can also help people who smoke who are trying to quit. People trying to quit smoking or vaping often have cravings when they are around other people who are smoking or vaping. Smoking and vaping bans support people trying to quit and those who have already quit.
Rights of people who smoke or vape
Having a smokefree policy does not infringe upon the rights of people who smoke or vape. Your smokefree policy does not ban cigarettes or e-cigarettes, but simply limits their use in certain areas.
For information on how to go smokefree, take a look at our Smokefree guide for workplaces.
(1) Rezaei S, Akbari Sari A, Arab M, Majdzadeh R, Mohammad Poorasl A. Economic burden of smoking: A systematic review of direct and indirect costs. Med J Islam Repub Iran, 2016;30:397. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27579287
(2) Troelstra SA, Coenen P, Boot CR, Harting J, Kunst AE, et al. Smoking and sickness absence: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scand J Work Environ Health, 2020;46(1):5-18. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31478055
(3) Bush R and Wooden M. Smoking and absence from work: Australian evidence. Soc Sci Med, 1995;41(3):437-46. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7481938
(4) Creating Preferred Futures. An analysis of the social costs of smoking in Victoria 2015–16. Hobart, Tasmania 2018.