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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK
Firms urged to help smokers quit
Smoking
The smoking ban comes into force in July in England
Workers should be given time off without losing pay to attend stop smoking clinics, NHS experts say.

It is part of a range of measures being recommended to businesses by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The watchdog said employers should be doing all they can to help staff give up smoking in the lead up to the start of the ban in England on 1 July.

But the smokers' lobby group Forest said the idea was ridiculous.

Smoking is estimated to cost industry 5bn in lost productivity, absenteeism and fire damage.

Employees who quit will give themselves an instant pay rise - a 20 a day smoker will save nearly 2,000 a year by stopping
David Sloan
NICE

NICE said businesses should be trying to encourage staff to give up smoking prior to the start of the ban in England on 1 July.

It prohibits smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces and comes after similar bans have been introduced elsewhere in the UK.

The guidance said employers should develop a specific policy on how to support employees who want to give up smoking.

This should include detailed information on where staff can go for help.

HAVE YOUR SAY
A person's choice to smoke has nothing to do with employers
James Ashwin, Oxford

It also calls on NHS "stop smoking" services to help business support staff by running clinics on firms' premises if there is demand.

The most radical suggestion is that employers should allow staff to attend anti-smoking clinics in work time.

Dr John Moore-Gillon, President of the British Lung Foundation. "We hope all employers would try to improve the general health of their employees.

"However, employers would have to decide for how long they were prepared to give employees time off to attend smoking cessation clinics.

"Large employers could consider whether organising lunchtime or after work clinics might be helpful."

Staff

The Federation of Small Businesses said it would be up to individual employers to decide if this was appropriate.

But Mary Boughton, the federation's health and safety chairman, said the measures could help to "improve the health of staff and productivity of business".

"Small businesses recognise the need to support their staff in the workplace."

No smoking sign at pub
Similar bans have been introduced in other parts of the UK

However, some business representatives have privately questioned whether it is right for employers to interfere with people's personal lives.

And Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest said it was "absolutely ridiculous" that workers should attend stop smoking clinics during working hours.

"It's wrong to expect employers to accept employees taking time off, and I imagine their non-smoking colleagues will be very unhappy about it."

And he added that any such move would be likely to be open to abuse as "people will take advantage as they have an excuse to take time off work".

Dr David Sloan, a public health specialist at NICE, said: "We know that overall around three out of four smokers want to quit.

"It's important for employees and their representatives to work with employers on what support they need to give up smoking, and to encourage their employers to make support available.

"Along with the health benefits of stopping smoking, employees who quit will give themselves an instant pay rise - a 20-a-day smoker will save nearly 2,000 a year by stopping."


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The ongoing campaign to stub out smoking



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