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How to Create a Workplace Policy

It's the law!

Every employer must establish a written policy governing smoking in the workplace that, at a minimum, complies with current Maine law.  The Maine Smoking Act of 1985 applies to all enclosed areas of business facilities in Maine where employees perform work and for which the employer is responsible.  The process of developing the policy may be negotiated through the collective bargaining process in some workplaces. 

Employers are responsible for:

Remember that this law is in place to protect your employees from exposure to secondhand smoke, a deadly substance known to cause immediate adverse effects that can cause heart disease and lung cancer.  Many workers in Maine are still exposed to this deadly substance every day.

Smoking is banned in ALL:

Employers in Maine may only allow smoking outdoors, at least 20 feet from entrances, windows, vents and doorways.  Smoking can never be allowed in any location that will allow smoke to circulate back into the building.

Employers in Maine may exceed state law and are not limited to the law's requirements.  For example, given the new availability of smokeless tobacco, you may want to consider a tobacco-free policy for health reasons; or perhaps you would like to include outdoor areas of your property to reduce fire risk or for other safety reasons.

Maine employers may not refuse to hire tobacco users.  Employers may not require, as a condition of employment, that employees or prospective employees not use tobacco when they are not at work.  Employers may not discriminate against employees who use tobacco outside of employment.

Creating a policy for your workplace 

Your policy can save you money while making your workplace a healthier one.  Bringing together a small group that includes employees, management and tobacco users can help you to create a policy that will fit your workplace and meet Maine law.  Larger workplaces may want to include someone from human resources, union reps, top administration, maintenance staff, security staff, and others. The Good Work! Kit is a resource available to Maine employers that outlines the details for how to comply with the Workplace Smoking Act, as well as the benefits of creating a tobacco-free policy. Download the complete Good Work! Kit or order a hard copy online.

Begin by selecting one of the three sample policies (PDF) to use as the basis for your policy.  Then, use this checklist as you write and implement your policy:

Why tobacco-free and not smoke-free? 

Purpose of a tobacco-free policy

By including all tobacco products in your policy, you demonstrate to your employees and to your community that your workplace actively supports wellness and tobacco-free living.

Such a policy also shows that you understand that smokeless tobacco products are not a safe substitute for cigarette smoking and that you are aware of the fact that such products:

The tobacco industry is marketing new smokeless and spit-less products

These new products are specifically for use in areas that are smoke-free.  While spit tobacco use in the workplace raises distasteful disposal and maintenance issues, the newer spit-less products can also pose serious health risks.

Tailoring your policy to your workplace

Employers in Maine can legally ban the use of all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco products, and any new tobacco products of any and all types on the entire property that is under their management.  The tobacco-free policy can even include a ban on the use of all tobacco products within personal vehicles while such vehicles are on the employer's property.

Remember that tobacco use has a significant impact on health

In the U.S., 443,000 deaths each year are attributable to smoking (CDC, Office on Smoking and Health; 2000-2004).  "Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, suicides, combined.  And thousands more die because they use spit tobacco" (CDC, Tobacco Use: Targeting the nation's Leading Killer:  At a Glance 2010).

Here are downloadable templates for good, better and best policies (Word).

Enforcing the policy and addressing violations

By posting your written smoking/tobacco use policy, by providing copies to any employee who requests it and by supervising the policy as required by Maine law, you have taken a big step in creating a healthier workplace for all.

Your policy and what happens when the policy is violated

Your policy must spell out the consequences for those who violate the policy.  Violations should be handled promptly.  It is important that your policy follows your standard disciplinary policy.  Spelling out the "chain of command" is important.  Communication can be a big help.  Posting signs will help all employees follow the policy.

Reporting a violation

Employees can report violations directly to supervisors and/or to workplace management.  Any employee, building owner, or member of the public may also report violations directly to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of the Attorney General, or local law officials.  When presented with evidence of a violation, the Office of the Attorney General and local District Attorneys can file complaints in District Court seeking fines from $100-$1,500.  The Attorney General can also ask the District or Superior Court to compel compliance with the law.  Reports of violations are also forwarded to other licensing and certifying agencies for possible administrative action.

How to file a complaint online

An online form is available or call 1-800-560-5269.  Complaints can be filed anonymously.  However, by submitting your name and contact information, more effective enforcement can result.

Remember, it's about the smoke, not the smoker!

Employers in Maine may not require that employees or prospective employees refrain from tobacco use when not at work, and employer may not discriminate against employees who use tobacco outside of employment.

Employers can support tobacco users who may want to quit.  Many employee health insurance plans include tobacco treatment as a benefit, but for those workplaces that do not provide health insurance, or where the health plan does not include such a benefit, employers can refer tobacco users who wish to cease their tobacco use to the free, confidential Maine Tobacco HelpLine at 1-800-207-1230.

Research shows that up to 70% of Maine's smokers would like to quit.  Addiction to tobacco products is a true addiction, and while not all smokers and tobacco users want to quit, many do and will appreciate your assistance in accessing services that can help.