smoking at the workplace - Leslie Inc

Smoking In Front of The Workplace


A French reader asked, “I see a lot of people smoking in front of their offices. Does smoking at work hurt a company and professional image?”

Over 71 percent of American businesses are are regulated by smoking bans of varying degrees. These laws affect restaurants, public places, hospitality, and bars. There are even laws forbidding smoking within a certain distance of public entrances. France passed a law in 2006 forbidding smoking in most public places. All of these legislation try to protect the public from the effects of second hand smoke.

Now, the question for today asks, does smoking in front of one’s work hurt the image of the company? Let’s look at this in two ways. One is a question of making the lifestyle decision to smoke and the other is a question of employees loitering in front of the workplace during their breaks.

I am not a smoker. My husband, Franck, has a greater aversion to cigarettes as his grandfather passed away from lung cancer.  While our lives have been personally touched by the deadly consequences of smoking, I am not here to make the judgement call about a person’s decision to smoke.

Having worked with smokers in America, smokers are generally discreet about their smoking habits and prefer to go to their cars or behind the workplace to smoke. It is my deduction that smoking has become a social taboo in some cities due partially to The Truth initiative that emerged in 1998 after America’s four largest cigarette manufacturers were ordered to sponsor the initiative.

My attention goes to the action of smoking and the location where it occurs. I have noticed in downtown Annecy, employees loitering in front of their workplace to smoke. They can be seen lounging by the front door, huddled in groups, or just leaning against the building as they take their smoke break. Take the cigarette out of their hands and what do you see? You see employees at work standing around, doing nothing. They may be on their break, but that is not what a client or passerby sees. They see an employee not doing their work. They are loitering.

Essentially, smoking has little to do with what an outsider sees. I think the physical act of smoking,  i.e. loitering and doing nothing, in front of the workplace hurts the company image. Even if these employees worked hard for their break, we could never really know for sure. Why would a smart business risk that kind of miscommunication?

My suggestion would to be to provide smoking break areas that do not disturb non-smokers out of the sight of customers. This way, clients can go about their business and employees can take their breaks in peace.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree. I’d love to hear what you think.



Leslie, Inc. offers solutions for finding happiness through one-on-one coaching, mindful leadership retreats, and digital products. If you’re ready to GET HAPPY, check out Leslie’s guide packs. For more tips on achieving your state of happiness, sign up for Leslie, Inc’s weekly newsletter.

Leslie Juvin-Acker

Leslie Juvin-Acker is Chief Happiness Officer of Leslie Inc. Since 2008, she has been coaching executives and business leaders all over the world. She is an expert in emotional intelligence and helps professionals tap into their own imagination to find solutions for personal and professional happiness.

  • DAC

    My husband says it is okay for our tenants and their company to smoke on the steps our our home where our children walk up the steps and through the front door our our home. I told him that a lot of buildings with businesses are tenants does not allow smokers to smoke in front of the door and that they have ashtrays on the side of the building for smokers; and that some of the building owners have moved the ashtrays altogether. Please let me know if I’m right about not letting the tenants and their company to smoke in the yard of our home just because they are paying rent? What about our children’s right and my right for being non-smokers?

    August 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm
    • Hello DAC,

      From a landlord perspective, we do not allow our tenants to smoke inside the property and we ask them not to smoke in front on the porch and leave cigarette butts lying around. In terms of a social perspective, many people frown upon smoking and sitting around the front porch or “loitering”. For those who have homes in gated/apartment communities, there are often rules forbidding what can be done on community property – smoking may be one of them.

      Ask yourself what does your community/homeowner’s association allow in terms of regulations and then ask yourselves what kind of image you’d like to portray to your neighbors. Obviously, if you live in the countryside, nobody is really going to care, however in higher populated areas and suburbs, the opinion might differ greatly.

      By the way, you can always amend your lease agreement to include language forbidding smoking in specific areas. If not, you can add articles in your next lease specifying what areas are designated for smoking and what areas are forbidden.

      Hope that helps!

      August 4, 2010 at 6:22 pm

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