Smokers feel frustrated and offended by the recently approved federal ban on having cigarette breaks for Public Health Department personnel. And even officials admit the ban is too hard and impossible to enforce.
Beginning with February 1, smoking employees are prohibited from having cigarette breaks throughout work hours, in conformity with a directive distributed among employees on New Year’s Eve. The corresponding ordinance was introduced by Jane Halton, head of Australian Department of Public Health.
Under the memo, personnel will be allowed to light up only during lunch break, and within at least 50 feet from the entrance of the building. The authors of the ordinance claim their major objective is keeping the professional efficiency and reputation of the Ministry and improving employees’ health.
Anti-smoking advocates admit they believe such move will serve as a gateway for implementing a comprehensive ban on having smoking breaks among public employees.
However, public lawyers were not so optimistic about the ordinance. The vice head of National Council of Civil Liberties, Sam Stosur, named the memo heavy handed and draconian, while Peter Hill, president of TressCox Lawyers which deals with employment laws violations said the directive could be legally overturned in the nearest future.
The spokesperson for Jane Halton said the ordinance was drafted in compliance with Australian Labor Code and the offenders would be subjected to penalties in conformity with APS code of conduct. The directive has an additional provision, according to which employees that are willing to give up smoking voluntarily will be provided with all necessary support.
Before the new directive, New South Wales (NSW) employees of Public Health Department were permitted to have short-time smoking breaks, admitted Victoria Carrey, communications manager of the Public Service Association NSW. However, everyone knows that smoking is dangerous even for those who don’t smoke, so if one considers this measure excessive, he would better begin receiving help for treating his dependence instead of violating the ordinance, she added.
Action on Smoking and Health Australia executive director, Anne Jones admitted that this policy is very reasonable, but difficult to enforce. However, she believes that many smokers would follow it, being afraid of effect the violation of the ordinance could have on their careers.
At the same time, head of the Community and Public Sector Union, Jade Blake admitted that the ordinance has good objective, but the means of enforcing it are not fair. As an example, she cited a similar ban on cigarette breaks imposed last year at the federal Department of Innovation has resulted in intimidations by disciplinary action for those smokers who refused to quit their nasty habit on their own.