Tobacco-free Workplaces

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act 

Workplaces have a legal responsibility to comply with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA), a provincial strategy to protect non-smokers from exposure to second-hand smoke, help smokers quit, and to encourage young people to never start.

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act defines an enclosed workplace as the inside of a building, structure or vehicle where an employee works or visits often as part of their job. This includes common areas such as washrooms, lobbies and parking garages, the inside of a trailer office on a construction site, the inside of a loading dock, or the inside of a delivery truck.

The ban on smoking in an enclosed workplace is in effect at all times, even during off-hours when people are not working. An employer who provides an outdoor shelter for smoking must ensure it consists of no more than two walls and a roof.

For additional information about the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, go to Smoke-Free Ontario. If you have questions or complaints about compliance with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, please call Region of Waterloo Public Health at 519-575-4400.

Financial impact of smoking in the workplace 

Tobacco use causes poor health and this causes increased employee absenteeism, decreased productivity, higher health insurance claims, and a higher number of workplace injuries.

The Conference Board of Canada has estimated that, for every employee who smokes, it costs the employer an extra $3,396 each year through increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and higher smoking facilities costs.

Supporting tobacco-free living in the workplace 

Helping employees to be tobacco-free is one of the best things employers can do to improve workers' health and the company's bottom line. The workplace is an ideal setting to encourage tobacco-free living because it can provide a supportive social environment that is helpful for quitting. In today's economy, many workplaces are identifying the benefits of promoting wellness in the workplace. 

Reasons for supporting tobacco-free living in the workplace: 

  • Improved employee health - employees who don't smoke take fewer sick days, go on disability less often, and are less likely to retire early because of poor health
  • Increased productivity - employees may take fewer unscheduled smoking breaks which could impact productivity
  • Reduced costs - due to absenteeism and facility maintenance
  • Enhanced job satisfaction - the majority of employees (smokers and non-smokers) prefer to work in a smoke-free environment and have shown increased productivity and morale
  • Effective setting - workplaces are ideal settings in which to address tobacco use because of the amount of time that people spend there and because it is a social environment can promote healthy choices
  • Better corporate image - workplaces that are committed to the health of their employees gain a positive image and respect for putting value on the wellbeing of their employees
  • Complying with legislation - by providing a smoke-free environment, employers protect themselves from liability related to the exposure of employees to a workplace hazard (smoke)

Promoting tobacco-free living in the workplace doesn't have to be complicated, expensive or time-consuming. It's a matter of making a commitment to workplace health, finding out what kinds of initiatives employees want, developing a plan, and putting some activities in place. Consider using these health promotion approaches:

Awareness-raising activities

Provide information to employees about the benefits of tobacco-free living (e.g. displays, health fairs, pamphlets, newsletters)

Skill-building activities

Help educate employees to develop the necessary skills to live tobacco-free (e.g. self-help resources, lunch-and-learn sessions, telephone counselling, web-based programs.)

Supportive environment

Create a workplace that strengthens and enhances employees' health practices and makes it easier for them to live tobacco-free (e.g. extended health benefits coverage for smoking cessation aids, employee assistance program that provides smoking cessation counselling)

Policy development

Enhance and sustain healthy practices by clarifying roles and expectations between employers and employees (e.g. designated smoking area, smoke-free grounds)

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