Workplace Tobacco Management Project Research Findings (Evaluation) Report by Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT
Exposure to tobacco smoke in the workplace (cultural factors)
Staff were asked to describe the smoking cultures within the workplaces. Smoking cultures within workplaces are a significant contributor to exposure tobacco smoke among smokers, ex-smokers and staff that have never smoked. Common themes emerged and presented below.
A debriefing theme emerged that appeared related to working in a sometimes stressful environment and staff felt the need to speak with other staff about problems or situations related to their work:
“I will smoke with colleagues either socially or debriefing re: work matters”
Breaks and meals
This theme was the most common theme and was described by almost all staff. Most indicated that smoking on a break or after meals was the done thing:
“With co-workers and when in need of a break”
“I usually smoke with colleagues outside on breaks and handover”
“Usually have a 'smoking buddy' at work. Make sure I have a morning tea break and a late lunch break”
After client interaction
The second most identified theme. About half of smokers identified smoking with clients to build therapeutic relationships. This theme also appeared related to the debriefing theme as it primarily concerned de-stressing and debriefing with other staff:
ʻI usually smoke after seeing a client or after a groupʼ
During staff meetings
This theme was closely related to smoking during breaks and with meals and coffee, although contained elements of coming together of the marginalized and as a way to come together with other workers:
“Oddly, it is a bonding experience for those stigmatized due to the fact they smoke”
“Smoking with the boss and colleagues allowed me to form relationships not available to non smokers”
Case study (anonymous site)
One pilot site experienced a significant shift in workplace smoking culture between commencement and completion of the Project. One individual that left, then returned provided a small case study into the changes observed:
“I was one of the few non-smokers employed with the organisation last year when the pilot Work Place Tobacco Management Project was initiated. At this time there was a very strong smoking culture. Employees socialised and destressed during the shift by having a cigarette. Non-smokers often felt left out and felt resentment towards the smokers as they sometimes left the nonsmokers alone with the clients so that they could have a cigarette.
When the WTMP was implemented in our centre there was a great deal of outrage from the smokers who believed this project to be forcing them to stop smoking. It created a lot of negativity and was an issue that was raised frequently at staff meetings.
I left the organisation for a period and returned some time later. During the time that I was away I have noticed a substantial change in the attitudes held by staff towards smoking and also the number of staff who smoke. The majority of our staff now identify as non-smokers or do not smoke when they are at work. People are supportive and encouraging of other staff members who want to stop smoking, and very little socialising occurs at our designated smoking area. There has been a high staff turnover in the past six months which raises many questions of how the project may have affected attitudes/ rates of smoking. However it is very clear to me that the project started a positive cultural shift within our organisation, particularly within the attitudes and behaviours of the shift workers.”
Changes in smoking culture and workplace tobacco smoke exposure
At each survey period staff were asked to describe any changes in smoking culture within their workplace. In the final survey, staff indicated:
- That in about half of the sites, there were no perceived changes in smoking culture within their workplace.
- There was an increase in the number of staff who did not smoke at work, or reduced their frequency of smoking when at work.
- There were designated smoking areas or banning of smoking on the grounds of most organisations.
- Staff were having to make up work time taken for smoking during the day, as this was now not considered ʻpaid timeʼ at work.
- An awareness of a formal staff tobacco use policy operating at their workplace.