TOKYO >> An increasing number of companies have banned employees from smoking during their work hours, aiming to resolve low productivity caused by their “smoking breaks” as well as improve the health of employees, which would help companies lower medical expenses.
In light of growing public criticism of smoking, the number of companies banning smoking on duty is likely to increase.
In June, Taiyo Life Insurance Co. abolished smoking throughout its headquarters and in about 150 branches and offices. About 3,000 people, or about 30 percent of all employees, were smokers, but all employees quit smoking in the offices, according to the insurance company.
“As I stopped smoking during work hours, I can work efficiently and have become more health conscious,” said Kazuyuki Hitomi, who works in the company’s field administration division.
Since October, Shimadzu Corp. has banned its employees from smoking for about one hour before and after their lunch breaks and will expand the ban to business hours beginning in spring 2020.
According to a September 2017 Teikoku Databank survey of 10,000 companies, 22.1 percent of respondents said they had banned smoking in their workplaces.
The revised Industrial Safety and Health Law, which took effect in 2015, requires companies to take measures against secondhand smoke at workplaces and prompts them to work on banning smoking.
Smoking breaks are often cited as lowering productivity because they disrupt smokers’ work activities. According to a survey by the U.S. Institute for Health and Productivity Management, smokers waste about 76 hours a year, 1.8 times more than nonsmokers.
In April, a male employee of Osaka prefectural government in his 40s was punished for taking a smoking break, and the case drew public attention.
The prefectural government has banned its employees from smoking during work hours since 2008, but this employee had been tracked leaving the office to smoke outside for more than 100 hours without permission.
Nonsmokers find the smoking breaks unfair. Piala Inc., a Tokyo- based information technology start-up, launched a system to allow its nonsmoking employees to have six extra paid holidays a year.
Hiroshi Yamato, professor at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan, said: “(Banning smoking) will help improve productivity and is beneficial to the business side. The number of companies following suit will increase in the future.”