Monday, January 14, 2008

Smoky workplace debate resolved

Anti-smoking zealots claim that bans on smoking in the workplace are necessary to protect employees and customers -- non-smoking employees in particular, since they can't turn around and leave the way customers might. That's especially true of businesses that don't deal directly with the public, so don't have to worry about patrons wandering in and being permanently damaged by a brief whiff of cigarette smoke. The American Lung Association maintains a Web page dedicated to the benefits of a smoke-free workplace. The page contains such pearls of wisdom as:

Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. Smokefree workplace policies are the only effective way to eliminate exposure.

The European Industrial Relations Observatory, in commenting on a proposed ban in Norway, said:

The main rationale behind the government’s proposal is to provide protection against passive smoking in bars and restaurants. Tobacco smoke is seen as a particular threat to the health and well-being of employees in such establishments, and it is also widely recognised that they enjoy relatively weak legal protection against such working environment hazards.

But what if there aren't any non-smokers in the office -- and won't be, by design? What if a small German company fires all its non-smoking employees and vows not to hire any more because they're considered "troublemakers"?

The manager of the 10-person IT company in Buesum, named Thomas J., told the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper he had fired the trio because their non-smoking was causing disruptions.

Germany introduced non-smoking rules in pubs and restaurants on January 1, but Germans working in small offices are still allowed to smoke.

"I can't be bothered with trouble-makers," Thomas was quoted saying. "We're on the phone all the time and it's just easier to work while smoking. Everyone picks on smokers these days. It's time for revenge. I'm only going to hire smokers from now on."

Well, there's no danger of non-smokers being involuntarily exposed to cigarette smoke under this arrangement. That means that anti-smoking activists should be happy, right?


Update: The story is apparently a hoax pulled by a pro-smoking activist. But I think the point raised is still a valid one.



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