If smokers have their breaks, non-smokers should get extra leave. That is a rising demand among many non-smokers in Australia.
As the federal Health Department prepares to ban staff smoking during work hours or when representing the department, Quit Victoria, a nonpofit, says workplaces should consider offering phone breaks to ring the Quitline in place of smoking breaks.
''We're constantly hearing from non-smokers in the workplace about this issue, with smokers having more free time or more breaks, more time off, and does that add up to an extra week's leave a year,'' Quit executive director Fiona Sharkie said
''We'd encourage workplaces to say to their smokers, look - instead of taking the time off to go and smoke, we'd like to give you time to ring the Quitline.''
The routine of going outside for a cigarette could also be replaced with changing a task at work, or having a piece of fruit, she said. ''We know that resentment does exist in the workplace with other workers, with taking breaks. But perhaps if it was in such a way as to assist people to quit, there would be less resentment.''
She also said health and social services workers, such as mental health or youth workers, often smoked with clients, as a means of bonding with them.
Quit itself does not employ smokers. All its job descriptions state that the person must be a non-smoker.
Melbourne City Council prohibits smoking in all council premises, vehicles and within five metres of council building entries, chief executive Kathy Alexander said.
Councillor Peter Clarke said he expected the council would re-examine its policy this year, especially in light of the federal department's new rules.
Mr. Graeme Walker, spokesman for the Victorian departments of Health and Human Services, said: ''Victoria has rigorous workplace legislation relating to smoking and working in and around the workplace and there are no plans to reconsider that legislation.''
Trade unions too have argued against ban on smoking during breaks as an intrusion into their privacy.
In Australia smoking rates have been declining dramatically. It was 72 per cent for males back in 1945, but it dipped to only 26 per cent by 2005, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Quit says it was only 21 per cent two years ago.
In the case of the women though, it has been hovering in a much narrower range - from 26 per cent in the forties to 18 per cent in 2007 according to Quit.