Let Smokers in from the Cold—or Heat
Office buildings should allow smoking indoors in designated lounges. Pro or con?
Pro: Live and Let Live
Antismoking advocates have a goal of keeping their personal bubble "smoke-free," with the underlying intention of putting a stake in the heart of Big Tobacco. How courageous of them. They might as well tackle fast food while they’re at it. Eating a double-cheeseburger isn’t going to give off secondhand trans fats, but you feel they should try regardless.
Instead of completely pulverizing the tobacco mother ship, why not section off a "do-fly zone" in office buildings to both appease antismokers and allow smokers who need a cigarette fix to smoke in peace?
Employees who smoke are just as inclined to need a break during the day as nonsmokers. Nonsmokers will either discreetly surf the Internet or take a stroll down the hallway to quell their corporate agitation. Smokers would rather light a cigarette. If a nicotine stick can get them through the day, so be it. They know what they’re doing to their health.
The U.S. Surgeon General tells us that if all workplaces in America were smoke-free, there would be fewer heart attack caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, which would save the U.S. $49 million in direct medical costs.
But it’s hard to believe that eliminating smoking at the office would significantly decrease the amount of secondhand smoke, thus lowering the number of heart attacks. That’s too long a “what-if” chain to take seriously.
If smokers are in their own zone, why bother them? Again, it’s their personal choice to smoke, and they absolutely know what they’re doing to themselves. If it’s any consolation to antismokers, smokers in these lounges would look like animals behind a cage. The ones you see at the zoo. Make faces at them if you really have a problem; just don’t expect a warm reception.
Con: Prevent a Public Health Hazard
Let me start by stating that although I’m a nonsmoker, I have smoked an occasional cigarette in my day, and have nothing against lighting up in general.
Yes, smoking kills, yada yada—we all know the drill. My father has smoked since he was young, and the one thing my mother ever says about it is: "If you’re going to do it, do it outside." Why? Because she doesn’t want her house, or her lungs, polluted with the smoke from his cigarettes.
Employees in the workplace have the same right to clean, carcinogen-free air. Even designating a special "smokers’ lounge" in the workplace doesn’t protect employees in surrounding areas from cigarette smoke getting into their lungs and onto their clothes and belongings. Smoke can easily escape from even the most well-ventilated room into the surrounding office space, causing stress, not to mention a potential health risk, to other employees.
The Surgeon General and the Health & Human Services Dept. have concluded that "there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke." Additionally, they have noted that even separating smokers and nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke, which counts as one of the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S.
Besides, making a special smoker’s lounge safe for employees who don’t smoke and who don’t wish to be surrounded by the smell makes for a costly, arduous task for employers.
By enforcing a smoke-free policy, employers can enjoy lower maintenance costs (they’ll save money and time if they don’t have to worry about the upkeep of carpets, curtains, furniture, and paint in a smokers’ lounge) and lower insurance premiums, as companies won’t have to worry about the additional fire and medical insurance, liability issues, and workers’ compensation associated with a workplace that isn’t smoke-free.