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Smoking CoWorkers

by Southern Programmer

As I am typing this blog, I am waiting for my co-worker to come back from her 'smoke break'. 
I have been working with her for the past 6 hours trying to get two systems to talk to each other
and I promise you she has had to have a smoke break EVERY 30 MINUTES!!!!!

Now, I consider this person a friend and I sympathize that she is addicted to nicotine but
this situation has caused me to wonder how much time is wasted in the work force of the nation
due to smoking?

Naturally, due to air quality smokers are not allowed to smoke in our building so a smoking
area has been setup.   If I go to a certain spot on our floor I can watch the smokers stand
around and smoke while drinking coffee and socializing.   If you ignored the fact they are
increasing their chances of cancer with each puff it looks like fun! 

One of my favorite movie lines involves Steve Martin.   Someone asks him "Do you mind if I smoke?" and he replies "No!  Do you mind if I fart?"

So every 30 minutes my co-worker grabs her cigarettes and coffee and heads out to the smoking
area and takes a 10-15 minute break.   She then comes back all hyped up on coffee and nicotine
and is productive until withdrawal kicks in at about the 20 minute mark.  

At that point she starts getting edgy and fussy until I finally tell her "GO TAKE A SMOKE BREAK!!!"
and she laughs and heads off.

Lets do a little math:

An 8 hour work day consists of 16 half hour segments.   Each half hour my co-worker has
to take a 10-15 minute break.   Lets use the low figure - 10 minutes.

So 16 x 10 = 160 minutes, lets now multiply that times five which gives us 800 minutes.

This works out to more than 13 hours per week!   So in a 40 hour work week, my co-worker
spends 27 hours working and 13 hours smoking!

Now, I realize that my co-worker has a wicked addiction that is probably not seen by many. 
But lets assume an office of 100 people has 10 smokers which have half the addiction of my

That means these 10 people would EACH spend 6.5 hours per week smoking which works out to
65 worker hours wasted.

Perhaps I am being a bit harsh, but I must admit being midly annoyed that I continue to work
while others take 'smoke breaks'.   (Ok, ok I am taking a break by writing this blog)

What's your view on co-workers who smoke?


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Corporate Ladder Rung: CIOtwiz (10/30/2007)
My last job they use to allow the smokers to gather in the hallway on the way to the cafeteria. I hated it... I had to walk through dense smoke any time I wanted to eat lunch. Not to mention the same people were always out there... just talking and smoking... not working! Imagine a scenario where a non-smoker would go for a walk outside every hour...for 15 minutes... they would be considered a slacker.

I would expect someone who takes so many smoking breaks to stay at work that much later each day...

anonymous (10/30/2007)
On my last job people could only take one extra break. There was a green strip next to the parking spaces. They sat on decorative rocks and smoked. Withdrawal - Smithdrawal too bad.
Only the coffee habit was actively encouraged, as long as some poor slob paid for a good can of coffee with his own money.

Among other addicts we also had a minor manager who was a weekend alcoholic. By Wednesday mornings the withdrawal symptoms were evident. There was no drinking and being under the influence on the job.
I do wonder if some employers would have handled addictions differently. Can see a worker ducking out for a few minutes every two hours, feeding all the different habits possible.

Corporate Ladder Rung: VPBookwoman (10/30/2007)
Okay, you got me. I'm the smoking co-worker. So you don't really want to know what I think about co-workers who smoke....but I'll tell you anyway!
I will say that in my office, our "breaks" are not strictly adhered to as they are in some areas. I do go out to have a cigerette a couple times a morning/afternoon. I'm out about 4-5 minutes each time. During that time I'm also "percolating," and thinking about a work task. When I go back to my desk I've figured out what I need to do. I will say that even if I did not smoke (and hopefully that day will come), I would be going outside to walk around the building at least a couple times a day to "percolate." For me, removing myself physically from my work area and re-focusing my immediate attention on other things, if only the scenery, seems to allow my brain loose at another level, under the radar, to work out whatever I'm trying to figure out.

That being said, if a person who smokes takes a break to smoke, don't criticize them if it's a reasonable break, and do not, and I repeat, and emphasize, do not EVER say, "well, I don't smoke, so I don't take breaks." Goody for you. Not taking your break is your deal, not mine. Beyond that, however, it is not fair or reasonable for anyone to take more breaks, whether they smoke or not, than other employees. Period.

Buy your co-worker a pack of gum. Stop enabling her. Do not laugh off her nicotine urges and send her off to smoke and get it "in" her system. That's her personal problem and not something she should be inflicting on co-workers. She is accountable. If she isn't grown-up enough to handle her own accountability, it isn't your job to cater to her immaturity.

anonymous (10/30/2007)
Agree with Bookwoman's stick of gum method. The only time I ever needed a security guard he was 'out' for a smoke!

Corporate Ladder Rung: CIOthe confessor (10/31/2007)
A restaurant I work at has recently clamped down on smoking after comments from several workers about the huge amount of break time smokers were getting, which also meant that non-smoker had to cover their tables. There is also a bonding nature to taking smoke breaks together-I've been asked go out on such breaks to keep a smoker company, despite the fact I no longer smoke.
I treasured my smoke breaks when I still had the addiction, but really made an effort not to abuse them.
This is another case of where real management is lacking in any number of workplaces (e.g. if you want a break, you must complete certain tasks or agree to take on an extra task, etc.)

Corporate Ladder Rung: CEOSouthernProgrammer (10/31/2007)
Good comments all.

Bookwoman - I have no intention of criticizing my co-worker about her smoking. She's old enough to know what she's doing and has already undergone cancer treatment - TWICE so she knows the risks. I do tell her to take breaks because she is UNBEARABLE when she is having a nicotine fit.

Anyway, I am enjoying everyones comments - keep them coming!

dumber than a catbox full of sh*t (10/31/2007)
I say we take a break from picking on the smokers and pick on the fat people or the people that never work-out or the coffee drinkers....Vices are fun.

Corporate Ladder Rung: CIOthe confessor (11/02/2007)
I'd like to add that we have people at work that smoke that are not abusing the privilege. And just two days ago, a new smoking policy limiting breaks, the number of people taking a smoke break (just one at a time), and such has been posted.
I worked with one lady who used to claim that she had to have the better part of two hours off for lunch because her husband demanded that he join her for lunch no matter what. Turned out that she was having lunch with a number of men...

Corporate Ladder Rung: VPavid reader (11/05/2007)
Smokers really just grate on me (nothing personal, fbookwoman!!). They seem to feel more entitled than non-smokers. For example, yesterday I was sitting in a restaurant looking out the window and a car drives by and the passenger (a woman with a scowl on her face) takes a big puff in and then flicks the cigarette out the window! And it was about 3/4ths still full! I just watched it out there smoking like crazy in the road. Disgusting! It really made me mad.

Chimney (11/05/2007)
I smoke as well, but our supers are very strict on taking breaks only at the alloted times. We get 2 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute lunch. We either smoke during those times or not at all.

Although, once in a great while, if we're stressing out, our supers will let us go out for 1/2 a smoke... Enough time it would take a non smoker to walk around the building if they were stressed.

But you are right there is a lot of time wasted by smokers. Before this job, I could smoke pretty much when ever I wanted and so I was outside 90% of the day...

Corporate Ladder Rung: CEOSouthernProgrammer (11/06/2007)
so I was outside 90% of the day...
Thanks for making my point Chimney, I don't hate smokers and actually feel sorry for them for I truly believe cigarette companies manipulate their product to make them addictive. I just simply wanted to point out that (IMO) smokers eat up a lot of company time smoking and it is ACCEPTED at most companies. Again, no malice intended on my part.

Chimney (11/09/2007)

Yeah, I totally understand. I only went out when I could though to be honest. I hardly had any work, we were never busy and it was just me and my supervisor working at that office. Then they hired in someone else so it got even worse there... NOTHING to do at all. I ended up leaving though because I hated doing nothing.

SMOKING KILLS!!! (02/11/2008)
I just want to walk up to every 3-packs-a-day-smoker and tell them they will be dead by the time they are 64. If they aren't dead then they will have terrible health. How do I know? Because my father is currently dieing of lung cancer brought on by his innocent little "smoke breaks" while working for the post office. Not only that but all smokers STINK! I know dozens of people who have died from smoking. And would you believe some hospitals allow patients to have smoke breaks? THAT IS INSANE!!! Wake up America! CIGARETTES ARE KILLERS! Dumbest piece of crap ever invented. And don't give me this crap about "addiction." People will quit when they are required to quit. My father quit smoking the day the doctor told him he had cancer. My boyfriend (now my husband) quit smoking when I told him I couldn't date him unless he quit. My two cents: businesses should refuse to employ people who smoke. Period.

Corporate Ladder Rung: Mailroomquality248 (02/22/2008)
Our company no longer hires people who smoke. It is also part of the required drug test. Not sure if I agree with that policy, but understand it. Health care is too expensive and a lot of smokers abuse the privilege of breaks.

Corporate Ladder Rung: CIOBonusOnus (03/04/2008)
Yes, smoking is absolutely bad for you. I should know, I was a smoker who was hooked by the cigarette companies at 15. Smoked for 15 years until I quit. It will kill people. It's not good for your health. Cigarette smoke stinks - when I smoked, I used to smoke outside my house and never allowed smoking indoors or in my car.

However...there are a lot of things that are bad for you that we allow. Because this is a free country, you have the freedom to do things that are not good for you. Believe it or not, being overweight is more of a health problem in America than smoking. Heart problems/obesity kills more Americans than cigarettes, especially since we have sent out a social stigma to smoking and the number of smokers dropped.

Could you imagine the outrage if we gave the same stigma to "volume-enhanced" Americans? We tax cigarettes because it causes health problems. Would we tax Big Macs, fried chicken, and junk food too?

What other activities should we discourage because of it's bad for your health? Watching too much TV and being a couch potato? Unsafe sex? Riding a motorcycle without a helmet?

The government's job is not to be your parent.

Corporate Ladder Rung: CIOBonusOnus (03/04/2008)

I've seen that at a few companies around here. But here in *crazy* California, which has the most restrictive anti-smoking laws in the state, even that's not that common unless you are in the medical industry field and work for a hospital or something. And that "discrimination" is perfectly legal (although I don't necessarily agree with it).

One fact though - smokers are a net gain to society, not a net drain. A study by Cato:

shows that smokers are a net gain. They might incur extra health care costs because of smoke-related sicknesses (like lung cancer). But they die earlier and because they die earlier, they don't use up the medical and social services that healthy seniors use up as their life expetency increases even though these smokers pay just as much into Social Security and Medicare that non-smokers do.

Here in California, these are the rules:

- you cannot smoke anywhere indoors. Not restaurants, not private office buildings, not even in bars.

- you cannot smoke in some outdoor places. Some cities will not let you smoke in public parks or even beaches

- in Calabasas, CA, you cannot smoke outside in your own backyard.

- in Belmont, CA, you cannot smoke in your own house if it is a shared housing unit, like a condominium or a townhouse

- meanwhile, in San Francisco, Mark Leno, a city councilman, wants to exempt marijuana smoke from the tough state and city "anti-smoking" laws. Go figure.

Corporate Ladder Rung: Mailroomjanisie (03/09/2008)
We have all had to face this situation in the work place and co-workers that smoke and take breaks to do so. the way my work solved it was they make the smokers clock out to smoke. We have a time clock that reads your palm print. So when they go to smoke they have to clock out and back in. Made the smokers madder then heck, but sure cut down or the smoke breaks.

Corporate Ladder Rung: CEOSouthernProgrammer (03/27/2008)
Janisie - I bet the time clock makes them mad! At my current job we had a guy who wanted a wireless laptop so he could work from his he could SMOKE. He actually wanted to drive to work, then sit in his car in the parking lot..and SMOKE. He could not understand why this did not seem reasonable...

What happens when you smoke (04/17/2008)
This is for all you smokers out there who keep thinking up excuses on why you shouldn't quit. I watched my father die last month and he was a dedicated smoker. Here's what happens when you smoke: You cut 10-30 years off your life. Heart attacks can kill smokers before lung cancer does (my father had both). Lung cancer is a total nightmare. The cancer spreads all over your body and to your bones. It is very very painful. You'll turn into a skeleton. You'll take about 15-20 pills a day. You'll go to the hospital 2-6 times a week for several years (if you are lucky). You won't be able to walk. The chemo will totally wipe you out and you'll have constant diarrhea. Your family will change your diapers. Your body will get very cold all the time and you can't get warm no matter how hard you try. You'll get open sores all over your body. The pain will got so bad that you will have to take morphin. The hospital bills will wipe out your savings or put your family in debt hell (unless you have excellent insurance but most people don't). So much for leaving money to your kids. Your body will start to decompose before you even die (for example: bone showing in your mouth where there should be gum). It is so terribly nasty and everyone says "It won't happen to me." That's what my father said too. And in the end the lung cancer prevents you from breathing so you fight for air as if you are drowning in water. All of your non-smoking friends will watch you die and cry cry cry. Smoking is a freedom? Actually, it is more like self-imposed torture.

dontask 0 (04/17/2008)
What Happens!

Sorry for your loss does not cut it, I know. But accept my heartfelt sympathy.

Your story should be required reading in grade school. The earlier the better. A teacher did this for me with nicotine and alcohol education. Discussions and real kid experience stories followed by classmates. Then we went home and said to our parents: "Don't do this"!

Former Employee (04/25/2008)
My job EVERYONE was a smoker except myself and I'm exaggerating. They would smoke right in front of the building entrance so I HAD to walk through it. Every break and chance they were allowed, they would smoke their hearts. I'm talking about 18, 19, 20yr olds smoking like their life depended on it. Such a disgusting and unclassy habit

Bernie (04/26/2008)
I am a smoker and am tired of people complaining about it. I have gone to being allow to smoke at my desk to asking some young kid for permission. It takes me 7mins.most co-workers spend that much time fixing their hair in the bathroom. I may die from smoking but I am going out on my terms. At work I had to punch out,no problem, except to walk across the building to punch out, again to go across the the building to go outside and away from the entrance. Finish a quick smoke, across the building to punch in, across the building to where I started. Now all of this is after listening to a kid fresh out of school lecture me. Now all this is wasting time. As for Hospitals, Give the workers,vistors, and patients a break. If you are there with an auto victim you should not be penalized futher. As a patient after surgery I was drugged and found my way out to smoke,not safe.
Keep your fireplaces,cookouts and large gas powered cars that are more dangerous and treat me like you would like to be treated. Seems like that is what this site is all about,fair and equal treatment.

Corporate Ladder Rung: Mailroomtruck21 (05/01/2008)
To all smokers: When did you start smoking? Why did you start?
Most of you propably cannot remember the answer to either question. If you can the answers would probably be: When I turned 21, when I entered High School. Why did I start? It was "cool", all my friends smoked. "It was the thing to do if you wanted to "join the crowd". If you do somethng long enough, yes you can become "addicted". I had mt first cigaret when I was 12. I had my last cigaret when I was 40. That is a span of 28 yrs. I was smoking 2-3 packs of Camel "straights" a day when I quit. I quit for 2 reasons: Health and cost. I didnot (and don't) have cancer. But, I was having trouble breathing, I had a cough I could not get rid of, AND I STUNK!!!. I was making good money, (working as a welder in the shipyards in Oregon), but I could not afford the $10.00 @ carton that they cost at that time. I was sending $20.00-$30.00 a week up in smoke. I found something better to do with my money--I SAVED IT!!!!! How did I quit? I was living in Arizona at the time workking for a fence company. Came home from work one night, told the wife "I quit". She said you can't quit, we need the money. I told her "not my job---I quit smoking". I took 1 & 1/2 cartons of cigarets threw them in the garbage, got rid of every ash tray in the house, and the next day being Saturday, G.I.'d the entire house. That means I took every piece of clothing, every piece of bedding, every curtain, everything that could be washed, dry cleaned, or fumagated and cleaned them. What could not be cleaned was thrown away. That was June 1980, I haven't touched a cigaret since. Smoking is a habit, just like getting up every day and going to work, getting dressed a certain way, eating certain foods, doing ever day things a certain way. You want to quit smoking? Remember what made you start and change that idea or "habit". Change the things that caused you to start and you will change the habit and you will save an average of $210.00 @ month. DON'T TELL ME YOU CAN'T USE AN EXTRA $200.00 A MONTH.

Dumber than a Catbox full of sh*t (05/02/2008)
My Doc says that smokers like me are the worst--I only smoke when I have had a few drinks--so I smoke about 1-2 packs a week. The Doc says that people like me are the worst because we don't view ourselves as smokers (she is right pretty much about this). but I was running about 40 miles a week until last Aug. when I fractured my foot. But I didn't let the foot stop me--I swam--I've worked out 5X week for almost 11 years. I am mid-40s and weigh anywhere from 5-7 pounds more than I did as a Freshman in high school 30 years ago--I'm 2 inches taller and have had a child. I eat healthier than anyone I have ever met, take vitamins and wear sunscreen 365 days a year---even though I live in Chicago--during the winter I am wearing sunscreen of 55-70SPF. I am a high school teacher and get mistaken for a student frequently. Everyone has their vices....


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