No smoking on the job if you work at Philip Morris
Tobacco firm Philip Morris is offering its staff a one-off payment of $7800 to give up their monthly ration of cigarettes as it takes a step towards a smoke-free workplace.
The company, which employs 800 people in Australia, has set up ventilated smoking rooms in its offices across Australia and in its Melbourne manufacturing plant to stop its workers from being exposed to cigarette smoke involuntarily.
Before the ventilated lounges were opened in September, staff were allowed to smoke at their desks. They were also given four cartons of cigarettes each month, but that perk is now being withdrawn unless staff sign a declaration saying they are smokers and the cigarettes are for personal use.
Philip Morris corporate affairs director Thomas Dubois said yesterday that employees who gave up the free cigarettes would receive the one-off payment.
Mr Dubois said the company policy had been altered in response to changes in public opinion and new information about smoking, not because of the risk of litigation from staff.
"Our position on smoking and health is, and should remain, very clear: it causes fatal disease and people should know that," Mr Dubois told ABC radio.
"People should make informed choice ... we [the company] have to stay attuned to changes in attitude and public perception."
The changes bring Philip Morris into line with British American Tobacco Australasia, which introduced ventilated smoking rooms in June.
Since BATA's merger with Rothmans in 1999, its staff have been able to opt for a $1000 annual payment instead of the traditional allowance of 100 cigarettes a week.
Smoking in the workplace is not explicitly banned in most states, although occupational health and safety legislation obliges employers to provide a safe workplace and to protect their employees' health.
In NSW, WorkCover steps in when an employee complains about smoking in the workplace to direct the employer to develop a smoke-free policy. Last year, it dealt with 120 complaints.
Action on Smoking and Health chief executive Anne Jones said about 25 per cent of Australian workers were exposed to cigarette smoke at work, predominantly in clubs and hotels (which are exempt from the law), factories and small businesses.
"It's certainly better than allowing people to smoke everywhere," she said about Philip Morris's smoking rooms.
"But the fact you are setting up a smoking room doesn't remove the risk of litigation."