Smoking ban Policy
The second-largest U.S. cigarette company, Reynolds American, announced Wednesday it's banning employees from smoking at their work spaces.
The Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based business - maker of the legendary Camel and Pall Mall smokes - currently allows indoor smoking in all areas except cafeterias, fitness centers and factory floors.
“We made this decision because the vast majority of adults in the U.S. don’t smoke, and the same is true for most employees and visitors to our facilities, ” Reynolds American spokesman David Howard tells U.S. News. “We believe this is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”
On Jan. 1, 2015, conference rooms and elevators will become off-limits to smoking for the company’s 5, 200 employees. Throughout 2015 and 2016 the company will convert rooms inside its facilities into designated smoking areas.
“Indoor smoking restrictions, bottom line, are the norm today and most people expect a smoke-free business environment, ” Howard says. “We simply felt that it was the right thing to do to better align our tobacco use policies with the realities of what you’re seeing in society today.”
“It takes some time to be able to revamp and address all of our facilities, ” he says. “As we roll through that, the phase-in of smoking restrictions will begin.”
Indoor use of electronic cigarettes and other smokeless tobacco products won’t be restricted. In addition to cigarettes, Reynolds American also produces the Vuse e-cigarette brand, available at many convenience stores.
Reynolds American’s sudden policy change has some anti-smoking advocates stumped.
Cynthia Hallett, executive director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, says it’s possible “they’re finally recognizing that there are health consequences and costs to the business of having to provide health care to people who smoke and/or are exposed to second-hand smoke.”
Indoor smoking is increasingly discouraged or banned, and Reynolds American is jumping aboard the bandwagon. Fabian Bimmer/AP
Though Hallett is pleased the company is moving to limit second-hand smoke inhalation, she calls the new rules “a 'no smoking' policy circa 1985” because indoor smoking in designated areas will be allowed. She also opposes indoor use of e-cigarettes.
Hallett, however, is optimistic the new policy change, coupled with CVS/pharmacy’s recent decision to end cigarette sales, will give local and state politicians in places like North Carolina and Virginia motivation to comprehensively ban smoking in workplaces. Many states do not have such bans.
Despite Reynolds' late adoption of restrictions, a spokesman for Altria-owned Philip Morris USA, the largest U.S. cigarette maker, says that company has for years discouraged smoking in public places.
Philip Morris employees can smoke in private offices and in designated smoking rooms, Altria spokesman David Sylvia says, but cannot light up on factory floors or in common areas such as shared office spaces, hallways and elevators.
Sylvia isn’t aware of any plans to make the policy more restrictive. He says current rules have been in effect at the company’s Richmond, Virginia, facilities for at least eight years and he hasn't heard of any compliance issues among the company's 4, 000 or so employees in the region.
“There’s adequate smoking rooms for people that don’t have an office, ” he says. “People are aware of the policy and follow a common courtesy in that regard.”
Philip Morris’ cigarette brands include Marlboro, Parliament and Virginia Slims. Sylvia says Altria has less-formal policies for e-cigarette use. “You can use those at your cube, but you cannot use lit-end cigarettes, ” he says.
Lorillard, the third-largest “Big Tobacco” company, did not respond to a request for comment on its internal smoking policies.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a pro-e-cigarette lobbying and industry group, says he was surprised by Reynolds' policy change, but says it's the latest in a serious of head-scratching moves from the company.
“After spending decades campaigning against taxes and bans, today [the company is] out lobbying states to enact sin taxes on e-cigarettes and urging the FDA to ban the entire $1.5 billion open vapor product and e-liquid industry, ” he says. “And now they are proactively banning smoking in the workplace? I think we've officially entered bizarro world.”
Critics say Reynolds' advocacy of e-cigarette taxes and product restrictions is motivated by a desire to give its Vuse brand an edge over smaller vendors who sell high-quality refillable devices online.
Howard says that’s not true, and that Reynolds American is sincerely concerned about rivals' e-liquid flavor options and the ability to use refillable devices to vape marijuana-laced liquid. “We certainly welcome competition. If we wanted to produce a tank system, we could do that tomorrow, ” he says.