Department Smoking Ban

Many cities, states, and even some countries have adopted policies to provide a smoke-free environment for their citizens. Most people are aware of the health risks to smokers, but sometimes the fact that even non-smokers are at risk due to second-hand smoke goes unnoticed. Smoking bans seek to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to breathe smoke-free air. In fact, two studies published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association and Journal of the American College of Cardiology in fall 2009 concluded that the ban on smoking in public places to curb secondhand smoke has resulted in a drop in heart attacks.

If your department is considering adopting a smoking cessation program, there are multiple approaches available, but the process does not happen overnight. Below are some ideas to make the transition smoother. Please keep in mind that every department and community is different, so what works for one organization does not always work for another. Talk with your neighboring departments to find out if they would be willing to adopt a similar smoke-free campaign. Being able to partner with another department in launching a smoking ban provides more support and continuity community-wide.

Step 1: Make a Plan

Before you can implement a smoking ban, you must devise a clear picture of what the new policy should accomplish and what steps you will take to ensure success. To make the process easier, think of context-awareness: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Who will the policy effect? What items specifically will the policy address? When will the policy take effect? Where will the policy be communicated? Why is the policy being implemented? How will the policy be enforced?

Here are some more specific questions to consider:

  • Is the goal to make the department a smoke-free zone or is the goal to have your entire department become non-smokers, even on their own time?
  • If your goal is to increase overall health of your firefighters, is smoking the only topic that you will address? (You may also want to consider educating members on the health risks of over-consumption of alcohol, obesity, and chewing tobacco, for example.)
  • Will you have an established smoking area or will smoking be prohibited on the entire premises?
  • Will visitors be expected to abide by the same rules? (Some departments host bingo night fundraisers when smoking is allowed for community members.)
  • What kind of assistance can your department provide for smokers to help them quit?

Once you know what you want your smoking ban to accomplish and how you will enforce the new policy, it is time to get started.

Click here to download a sample No Smoking Policy to help you in developing your own department’s policy.

Step 2: Education

If your smoking ban is to be successful, your members need to understand why this change is taking place. Many resources are available to help you educate your members on the dangers of smoking, not only for the smokers themselves, but also for those around them.

Consider hosting a class about the dangers of smoking or work it into department meetings. Never point fingers, but remind members that smoking always has an effect. For people with asthma or for people who are allergic to cigarette smoke, even being in the vicinity of a lit cigarette can have major health ramifications. Often, highlighting the benefits of a smoke-free environment is enough to gather more than sufficient support from the members of your department.

If you have anyone on the department who is an ex-smoker, find out if they would be willing to take on some responsibility for the campaign. Maybe he or she could speak about his or her experience with quitting, act as an advocate for the new policy, or simply serve as a mentor to those who may decide to try to quit. The current smokers on your department may be significantly more receptive to listening to someone that has been in their shoes than someone who has never smoked.

Step 3: Communication

In addition to education, you will need to communicate with your department about the policy. Choose a date that the policy will take effect and advertise it, along with the details of the policy and why the department feels that smoking cessation is important. Ways to communicate internally include: email, letters, flyers, announcements during meetings, and word of mouth. Externally, you can send press releases to your local newspapers regarding your department’s health initiatives, post an article on your department web site, or advertise the starting date of the ban on your marquee.

Step 4: Participation

Participation is crucial to the success of your smoking ban. Whenever possible, try to make participation easier. Here are some ideas to encourage participation in your department:

  • Offer nicotine gum or patches at no cost when members are at the department.
  • Find out if a counselor in your community would be willing to donate time to work with department members who are struggling with quitting.
  • Celebrate milestones when members are able to quit for a week, month, etc.
  • Highlight members’ achievements by posting their success story on your department’s web site.

Sources: Roswell Park Cancer Institute; Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program 

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