Tower Hamlets claws back fag-break time

Monday 02 October 2000

Press release     

Tower Hamlets claws back fag-break time from smokers and ends discrimination against non-smokers

Tower Hamlets council will be among the first employers in the country to officially recognise smoking breaks.  Smokers will have half an hour to smoke during the day but at their own expense.  The idea is to extend the working day by half an hour for smokers, but to level up the working time between smokers and non-smokers.

ASH said the move ended an unspoken discrimination against non-smokers.  Clive Bates, Director of ASH, commented:

“Everyone takes breaks, but we know that smokers take more breaks and are away from their work for longer.  This is about ensuring that the burdens of smoking don’t fall on non-smokers.  It is about smokers taking responsibility and putting as much time into paid work as non-smokers.”

“The main reason for doing this is fairness to non-smokers � many non-smokers just put up with the absences and cover where we can.  But why should someone who doesn’t smoke take on more work than someone that does?”

“It is a nonsense to claim that smoking breaks are no different to coffee breaks, prayer breaks, shopping breaks and so on � smokers take these breaks as well.”

“If employers looked at the consequences smoking, they would find other reasons to crack down � as the effects of the last cigarette begins to fade, so the first withdrawal nicotine symptoms begin and the smoking employer begins to crave the next break, with a loss of concentration, increasing distraction and mounting irritability.  There’s bound to be a productivity loss.

ASH is dismayed at the backing of the trade union Unison for the smokers at Tower Hamlets, and rumours of strike action.  Clive Bates of ASH said:

“I can’t believe a union has gone into the ring to defend unspoken discrimination.  Unison has played an important role in securing smoke-free workplaces and defending the rights of non-smokers, but now they are defending the ludicrous principle of the fag-break at the employer’s expense.

“Isn’t it ironic that smokers protest against an employer that just wants them to do the same working hours as non-smokers by organising the ultimate fag break a strike.

“I hope all the workers at Tower Hamlets will side with the employer and recognise that they have taken a sound and sensible step in management of smoking at work.  At least the smoking breaks will now be official and not just sneaked from the employer.

Press Contacts:

Clive Bates 020 7739 5902 (w) 0468 791 237 (m) ISDN is available

Amanda Sandford 020 7739 5902 (w)