How “Smoke Breaks” Affect Your Business and What You Can Do That Will Save Your Business Money

We have all seen, worked with, or employed what people call “The Smoker”. Little unknown fact to most, these employees cost more than the “Non-Smoker”.

First, let me establish, I have no qualm with smoking or smokers in general. Despite my personal feelings on the subject and the health hazards, this article is geared towards the impact that “Smoke Breaks” have on your business not smoking itself. How many times on average does a smoker step out to get their nicotine fix? On average, 5 times a day. This creates a slew of problems for businesses and their owners, other workers, and luckily there is something you can do about it. Here are three main points on the subject.

1.)    “Smoke Breaks” and the employees who take them cost more money.

This little fact may be easily overlooked. Breaks seem harmless, right? In this case, wrong. These “Smoke Breaks” are not clock-in, clock-out kind of breaks. You, as the owner, are essentially paying these individuals to smoke that cigarette. National Public Radio states that researchers have gotten closer to an exact figure on that cost, per year. In lost work time and productivity, states that $3,077 is wasted capital per year, per smoker for their 5 smoke breaks a day. They also state “Other costs include more sick days due to health problems, at $517 per smoker, and $462 a year for lower productivity while working because of withdrawal symptoms, which kick in within 30 minutes of that last drag.” Tim Sackett with HR Pro wrote an article that gives a breakdown of the time each “Smoke Break” consumes: 10 minutes. This includes travel time to destination and back, consumption of the cigarette, and many other small aspects. Collectively, with 5-6 smoke breaks during the day, he concludes that each smoker takes an hour from the workday to enjoy their habit, on company dollars, paid.

2.)    What they law says on this matter.

To be clear, the only thing you need to know. Breaks are a privilege from an HR standpoint. Sackett says in his same article, “We don’t legally have to allow people to take a smoking break – heck – we can fire them for taking a smoking break.” No breaks have to be given. In fact, without permission, it is desertion of their duties that they are employed to perform while on the clock. If one has nicotine addiction, this is fuzzy ground on the borders of ADA and what is a “disability” but the suggestion is that nicotine can be consumed without the need for a break, in a patch or gum for instance.

3.)    Why it’s wrong to allow smoke breaks.

Let’s suggest, rather than omitting “Smoke Breaks” we additionally incorporate “Non-Smoking Breaks” for the “Non-Smokers”. Therefore everyone is on even ground. How ridiculous would it seem for a “Non-Smoker” to be allowed to get up and leave for 10 minutes 5 times a day to go outside, engage in casual conversation with their friends and text or check social media?  Seems unfair to let one group exercise this just because they hold a cigarette. Also let’s add, these people outside for 10 minutes for a “Smoke Break” have now shirked on their duties, leaving another member of the team to pick up the slack causing more work for others and they get paid equally. I read a story of a woman who owned a diner, during lunch rush she would find individuals outside taking their due “Smoke Break” and causing issues with service. Bad representation on her establishment. Consider, treating all fair. If smokers get breaks, those that don’t should as well. However, in general, you don’t have to allow either.

Costing you thousands of dollars a year are the “Smokers”. Still, these may be talented and highly performing individuals. By no means do I condone being discriminatory for their habit. What I do condone is finding a way that best suits your business to operate at max efficiency and operate fairly with all parties working inside its confines. I would consider talking with an HR or Lawyer to discover options that may be fitting to your industry, business, and employees.

What are your thoughts on smoking, breaks, and the fair treatment of all employees? Let me know in the comments or by email:

Brandon Banks (@brandonbanksbiz), a serial entrepreneur began his entrepreneurial adventure at a young age and currently travels to educate students on the possibility of seizing the day and moving toward their dreams of being their own boss. Together in collaboration with his network Banks disrupts common traditional barriers and exposes that through proper support anyone can be an entrepreneur regardless of where they are at in life. Check out more of Banks’ writing here:



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