Ask Shawn: Snuffing out smoke breaks

How do I structure breaks for employees who smoke in a way that's fair to everyone, including nonsmokers?
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Dec 01, 2010

Smokers shouldn’t be given extra breaks, says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, CEO of Innovative Veterinary Management Solutions in Phoenix. “My opinion is that a business should not encourage smoking in any way and should never make special allowances for smokers,” he says. “It’s the ultimate hypocrisy in a veterinary clinic that’s supposed to represent animal health.”

Smokers should be given the same breaks that other employees receive—if they choose to smoke while on those breaks, fine. But two or more people shouldn’t take a break together to smoke. Smoke breaks create the opportunity for gossip, McVey says. Other employees don't take their breaks together, so why should smokers?

Team members also shouldn’t smoke while walking a patient or handling a patient outside. Any signs of employees smoking in or around the building should be concealed—that means team members shouldn’t smell like smoke, nor should you see any cigarette butts around the back door.

If you allow smoking at your practice, adopt a zero tolerance policy for the aforementioned restrictions, McVey says. The place to nip this in the bud is in the hiring process—address your smoking policy in the interview. Finally, make sure the rules apply to all members of your team—even the overnight staff.