Tuesday 16 October 2018

Would extra holidays help smokers to quit?

Deborah Coleman - Straight Talking

As a nation we are always being warned of the strain that poor habits such as smoking or drinking puts on the health service so it was interesting to read that in Japan they are taking a novel approach to encourage people to smoke less.

Companies are to offer an extra six-days paid leave to workers who do not take smoking breaks - in a bid to level the playing field and offer an incentive to smokers to kick the habit.

I don't know many smokers who wouldn't like to smoke less and reduce their consumption and there is no denying that this would be quite the carrot on a stick to help them in this regard.

However, the question is - why should employers be the ones to foot the bill simply because some of their staff happen to smoke?

Is it not up to the individual how they manage their health and whether they want to give up or not? It is a personal decision whether or not to smoke and it really shouldn't even be an issue at work.

The problem arises when smokers get into the habit of taking regular breaks to indulge their habit. They pop out here and there for a quick smoke while their non-smoking colleagues do not.

In many jobs, it is not an issue - for instance if a person is in a position to use their lunch break for a number of shorter smoking breaks and it doesn't affect their productivity then that is a matter for them and their employer. However, if we are talking about a job which only permits breaks at very specific and pre-approved times - then of course there could be a problem.

These type of debates turn in to a smoker verses non-smoker argument all the time and the point here is not really about that - it is about equality and in the workplace staff members should entitled to the same amount of time off - whether for breaks or holidays.

If employers are willing to permit dozens of smoke breaks throughout the working week then in theory they would have to approve the same level of breaks for the rest of their staff and then it would turn into a revolving door of employees going in and out all day long.

That said, if companies were happy to offer extra holidays to those who don't smoke in Ireland then I think there would certainly be quite a number of people more than happy to kick the habit.