I love the place where I work and I love the people I work with. I’m fond of one lady in particular. She has salt-and-pepper hair, wears tight leggings and brown worn-out sandals. She loves to read and for environmental reasons refuses to use plastic plates, cups, spoons and forks. When I have a work-related question, I am unable to find her. She takes breaks from work every other hour, on the hour.
Whenever I come face-to-face with her, I find myself fidgeting. I am uneasy. I try to stop myself from blurting out, “Care for a mint?”
She’s a smoker-one of 58.7 million in the United States. The smell of smoke that clings to her clothing and the odor that dwells in her mouth that make me want to step away-at least five miles.
When you work in retail or customer service, it is imperative that you represent your organization well. You should be able to respond to customers, make them feel comfortable, and ultimately make a sale. As a customer, you can’t help but be turned off by poor hygiene, smoking, for example.
On January 1, 2001, Anchorage’s smoke-free air law went into effect. Anchorage joined many other cities in prohibiting smoking indoors-offices, restaurants and bowling alleys. Smokers had to take their habit outside. The smoke may have stayed out there, but the smell comes inside whenever the smoker does.
Anchorage is lucky enough to limit smoking to the outdoors. Other cities aren’t so advances. In the United States, about 3,000 nonsmokers die yearly due to second-hand smoke. Eighty percent of the population is comprised of nonsmokers. It was their choice not to smoke. They don’t deserve the consequences.
In the workplace, complaints about smoking are not limited to the stench of the smoke. Smokers go on more breaks, leaving nonsmokers wondering if that is fair.
On a larger scale, we see how smoking can further create injustice at the workplace. Like Rachel Greene on the sitcom “Friends” and real-life Jayson Blair from the New York Times, smoking was able to make or break a career. Blair’s smoking habits giving way to breaks with top editors have been cited as a reason for his quick ascent at the Times.
Why should nonsmokers inhale the smoke and the consequences? We nonsmokers will respect the choice to smoke as long as it doesn’t kill our lungs, our moods and our careers.