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Do Coworkers Who Smoke Take Advantage of More Break Time?

Updated on March 1, 2018
JynBranton profile image

After a decade as a journalist, Jennifer Branton is on the path to finding a balance between career and writing.

Always More of A Social Smoker

In my new office, we are all non smokers, two of us former smokers, so when the radio station we were listening to was taking a poll:

Do employees that are smokers take more breaks than other coworkers? Are they taking advantage of their coworkers and break policies in their workplaces?

Thinking about smoking to this day, still makes my mouth water. I was always more of a social smoker, and even when I had purchased cigarettes on the regular, for some reason switching brands every time I started again since I had first smoked in college; I never was a heavy smoker.

When I was a regular smoker, I was pretty much at about a four or five a day habit, easily making my pack last about a week or so unlike many of the people I knew that were lucky to make it through the day without "bumming off someone" or fumbling through their belongings in hopes to find a second pack.

The last time I smoked was about two years or more ago, and I can somehow remember that last cigarette as I always made a big production to celebrate the last one that I was going to have until somehow I was back in the habit when it came to social gatherings and soon buying again a few years later.

Still when I was an employee that had smoked cigarettes, I pretty much had a schedule: one before work, usually either on the way or just before walking into work, then one on allotted breaks, one on lunch, and one walking back to my car after work.

I never took advantage of having a smoke when everything was slow, or the boss wasn't around like most of the people I have worked with at various jobs.

The other former smoker in the conversation had smoked a lot more than me, but was also able to contain themselves to just having smoked when it was allowed on lunches and breaks.

Those in the room that had never smoked all had a story to tell about some coworker than had really bent the rule when it came to taking extra breaks for having a cigarette.


Do those that smoke take advantage of their coworkers by taking more time off the clock to go outside?

Every Hour On The Hour

In my former job, there was Tracey, Chrissy, Kelly- three of the most lovely people to talk to- if you could find them actually at their desk. The trio of smokers, spent most of the mornings and afternoons in the same pattern of nicotine addiction and I wondered if it was that they had actually smoked for so long that they got ill without having a cigarette, or if this was a grand excuse for whenever the bosses went looking for why they were never at their desks.

I was still in one of my stages of smoking when I started this job and they didn't understand why I wasn't always walking out with them to plop down on the front steps and block the doorway of anyone that was trying to come in and out of the business.

They didn't realize that the smoke was filtering back into the office every time they opened the door, that their breathe and hair, and clothing reeked from constantly standing in their semicircle pow wow sucking on the fire stick.

I liked them all very much, and they did great work, but even the smokers that followed the rules were constantly complaining to the ear of supervisors. Of course nothing was really done about it. The trio was told to please only go on breaks and there was signs posted about the appropriate places to smoke like someone's personal vehicle.

HR had thought they had done their job.

But the rivalry between those that didn't smoke seeing nothing being done about these people taking advantage of the system, others began to take extra breaks at their desks doing just whatever, as it was explained it was the same thing as running out the door for ten minutes every hour to pollute your lungs.

Morale fell fast at this job.

Three years later when I left, the present management had given up trying to control the smoking tribe and their numbers had grown to consume more of the smokers that were actually just going off the clock because everyone had figured out there was no punishment otherwise.

Non smokers started taking more breaks in response deeming it wasn't fair nothing was being done about the smokers taking so many breaks.

The Legend Of Indoor Smoking In Illinois

I am old enough to always remember a smoking section in restaurants.

In high school even though I didn't smoke yet, I knew them all as it was where the teenagers hung out haunting the bench seats of Denny's or Baker's Square in the days of only having allowance as spending money ordering one tray of french fries for the table and one cup of coffee to constantly be refilled until the manager finally threw us out to free up the tables.

I hadn't realized that for Illinois, the Smoking Ban actually was instated in 2008, making all those places I was used to seeing smokers as a kid something of legend.

I hadn't even thought about the last time I had seen an ashtray in cars, or a lighter instead of the eight volt adapter.

2008 banned smoking in public buildings, places of employment, schools, hospitals, eateries, stores, and smoking was prohibited within fifteen feet of doorways.

I do sympathize in some ways with the smokers as their numbers are cast out far from any protection from the elements to bake or freeze or be rained upon in the harm Illinois weather to have to smoke so far away from anything it adds to their complaints that they need about five minutes longer on a break to get to the place where they are actually allowed to light up- but I completely understand as a non smoker why they are sent as far away as possible for public health.

Still it not enough is actually done in any place I have worked to keep the smoking pariahs from steadily creeping closer and closer to the doorways and leaning against the non smoking signs as they finish up.


Violations And Fines

Smokers can be fined for smoking in the non smoking areas, and employees can even complain to OSHA.

Illinois Enforcement of the Smoking Ban as follows:

The Illinois Department of Public Health, local public health departments, and local law enforcement agencies are required to enforce the act. These agencies may assess fines to any corporation, partnership, association or other entity violating the no smoking provisions of the act. Each day that a violation occurs is a separate violation. (410 ILCS 82/40)


A person who smokes in a prohibited area shall be fined from $100 to $250. A person who owns, operates, or otherwise controls a public place or place of employment that violates the act shall be fined not less than $250 for the first violation, not less than $500 for the second violation within one year after the first violation, and not less than $2,500 for each additional violation within one year after the first violation. (410 ILCS 82/45)

Proprietor Responsibilities

Post a “no smoking” sign at each entrance. Do not permit smoking in a public place, a place of employment or within 15 feet of any entrance. Remove ashtrays from all areas where smoking is prohibited. (410 ILCS 82/20)


Taking The Proper Break Time

Another in our discussion recalled an employee before my time that would manage to take "about thirty minutes to do whatever every time he went to smoke," She said with disgust. What was funny about this remark is this was one of my new supervisors, whom at the time probably had the know how to report this person taking the thirty minute cigarette breaks.

On the current job, there is an hour lunch rather than a half hour and two fifteen minute breaks off the clock like the former job. Still the woman telling the story joked, even with an hour, the person in question still had to slip off for another half hour or so.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that there are people that are truly addicted to smoking and I pity them and hope they find recovery before it causes the severe health problems that have killed many of my smoker relatives- reasons why I feel like even though I have only smoked here and there for a few years at a time in my life I will probably still end up with lung cancer despite being a runner and working out a few times a week.

Still though the level of professionalism at a job shouldn't be to take extra time of the clock wasting time- even if one is to argue for a smoker that this is just the same as someone that may take extra trips to the water cooler or the bathroom during the day when not on an official break.

I feel like smokers should try to be more considerate and see how the just walking off all the time effects the morale and productivity of the work place. Don't be afraid to tell supervisors of concerns, or if nothing is getting done, try talking to HR or Union rep if people taking extra time off the clock to smoke is really getting out of hand.

There is always the chance that maybe like the trio at my former work, they didn't know that it was making people angry.

I feel like at a job you should always put your best foot forward, and at least be active about trying to abide by the rules. Of our group, we all felt that coworkers that smoke have taken advantage of the break schedules and I pose the question below.

Be sure to vote in the poll and comment with your own experience.

Do smokers take more breaks and time off the clock than non smokers?

See results


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