September 28, 2021 at 8:41 pm #30093
This is a difficult topic for me to write about because it triggers various feelings within myself and others. It is also a regular topic of discussion within my workplace, and I believe people are getting sick of talking about it but we’ve not come to an ideal resolution for me.
As a patient living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a life-threatening lung disease, I despise being around secondhand smoke. Inhaling even the slightest bit of smoke triggers a cough that takes hours to subside, pain in my lungs (I’d describe it as a burning feeling) and shortness of breath. I acknowledge and respect those who choose to smoke, as long as it isn’t negatively effecting others and unfortunately, in the case of our workplace it is. Currently, the designated smoking area at work is technically breaking the Ontario law of not allowing others to smoke within 9 meters of an entrance way. Our HR Manager is aware of this and is trying hard to come up with another solution, however, given the location of our office building, smoking really isn’t ideal anywhere.
It is not appealing to have smokers stand out front for passerby’s or neighbours to notice, and it is not safe to have people smoke around the dumpster area due to the potential of it igniting in dry weather. We don’t want anyone to smoke in front of the main entrance doors, and where the smoking pit is currently designated allows it to blow into the parking lot. We simply can’t think of a good solution for the small group of staff members who smoke. Our HR Manager is aware of my needs, and is very respectful of never wanting/needing to address a respiratory emergency due to my inhalation of secondhand smoke but I fear it is going to happen without a change. Since no one else in our office has major respiratory/health issues triggered by smoke (though, there are some intolerance’s to it), it feels as though I am always the one pushing the issue. I am feeling a bit of guilt and anger about this.
Have you ever had to lead or advocate for a change in your workplace (ie. moving a smoking area) due to your PF/IPF diagnosis?
Should I let go of those feelings of guilt and anger, and keep pushing for this change because it is for the betterment of my health?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
September 30, 2021 at 3:57 pm #30107Karen MartinParticipant
I have always found it fascinating to see both nurses and doctors smoking in the designated areas around hospitals. Or patients with their IV stands alongside. Not that this is any solution for your problem, Char, but I always have the urge as I wheel my oxygen tank past such people to say, “Keep that up and you too can have one of these!”
As a former smoker, I can understand people feel they have the right to choose to smoke. It’s unfortunate that there can’t be some sort of “cubicle” or “shelter” for those at your place of work where they could share their toxic by-products with only those of like mind. Perhaps that could be looked into? Who knows? Maybe with a concentrated enough dose, some of them might be encouraged to quit.
September 30, 2021 at 5:35 pm #30110Denise StogdillParticipant
Hi Charlene, at my previous place of work they designated a room in the building for smokers. This was great except that there was so much smoke in the room when they opened the door the smoke billowed out of the room into the area. While you didn’t have to deal with smoke as much you still had to deal with the smell. Good luck with this challenge. It is a tough one!!!
October 17, 2021 at 2:04 pm #30215
It sure is! I try not to judge, as I know people have their own habits and/or coping strategies but I am just not tolerant of the smell of cigarettes anymore… it makes me cough, gag and I just can’t stand it. You’re totally right, it travels and even comes back to the workspace on the colleagues who go out and smoke; it is ultimately hard to avoid and I understand that from an HR lens too. I’ll continue to advocate for myself and I appreciate your input.
October 5, 2021 at 3:02 pm #30128JTParticipant
Charlene, you are such a wonderful support to all of us on these forums. I think you need some support yourself in this matter.
I have worked as a safety and risk management consultant to businesses for more than 30 years and you are not being difficult in asking for a safe workplace. It is required by law and your employer is putting your physical and mental health at risk by not removing and/or controlling this hazard. Yes, it sometimes is difficult but it may require the employer putting your rights before those of smokers. Perhaps the company has a safety and health program or manager you could contact. But that position is often a meager part of the HR Dept. A bigger hammer is the employer’s workers compensation carrier or the Canada Workforce compliance Safety. As you well know from your experience with IPF, we must often be our own advocates. I wish I could lend you support in person as I have often done for other employees, even while being paid by the employer. Stay strong!
October 17, 2021 at 2:01 pm #30214
Thank you so much for your kind words and the reply to this post — hearing others’ experiences with this and also not understanding is helpful to me. As much as I feel like I’m sometimes being pushy or demanding by wanting this issue addressed and corrected, I also know I need to protect my physical health. I have landed in the ER more than once due to inhaling secondhand smoke and its really tough to deal with emotionally. I will continue to advocate for this issue to be corrected not only for me, but others who simply have a low tolerance for secondhand smoke too.
Take care and thanks again for your kind words!
October 7, 2021 at 9:54 am #30153Jeff Taylor-JacksonParticipant
I feel the same sense of amazement when I see the same here in the UK. Normally they sit and smoke under a sign that says “No Smoking” or “No Smoking outside these doors” It seems to me that once you start smoking you can’t read either.
I also want to ask if in a few years they would like IPF like I have. It upsets me that they have good lungs and are hell bent on destroying them. I have never smoked, so I do feel a certain amount of anger at seeing people smoke. At my workplace they have provided shelters at the rear of the car parking lot. Of course this is way too far for people to walk to, so they sit on the wall outside our building. Another thing that yanks my chain is this business of throwing the butts on the floor and treading on them. This, to the smokers is not litter is it? What we end up with is hundreds of butts outside our building that get trodden on and walked into the building. Someone has to clean this up right?
I think this is also a cultural and attitude issue that we will not overcome. In Japan, Where I was fortunate enough to visit recently, there is a completely different attitude. No Japanese will smoke in the street. They certainly would not throw butts in the street causing litter, because litter is not a problem in Japan, they just dont litter, vandalise or graffitti. If you do see anyone smoking in the street, the chances are they are not Japanese. The Japanese have dedicated smoking “rooms” in the street where the smokers go. They have a thing in Japan called “Respect”. Something we dont have in the UK.
Jeff South coast of England.
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