Employees of Reynolds American, the nation’s second-largest tobacco company, will no longer be able to light up in the office starting next year.
Cigarettes, cigars and pipes won’t be allowed at desks or in offices, hallways, conference rooms and elevators once Reynolds fully implements the smoking ban, according to The Associated Press. Smoking is already forbidden on factory floors, in cafeterias and in fitness centers.
Smoking won’t be allowed in elevators or conference rooms starting Jan. 1, 2015. Reynolds American will build indoor smoking rooms at company offices in North Carolina, Tennessee and New Mexico by 2016, and once those rooms open, the rest of the company’s smoking ban will go into effect, AFP reported.
And yes, the company, which makes Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes, sees the irony in this. But, Reynolds spokesman David Howard told Bloomberg, "we believe it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”
Smokeless tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, chewing tobacco and heat-not-burn cigarettes, will still be allowed, Howard said.
Reynolds American estimates the percentage of its 5,200 employees who smoke is similar to overall U.S. smoking rates, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts at 18 percent, according to the AP.
Smoking bans on the rise
Howard told AFP the new rules made sense in a country that’s increasingly leaning toward public smoking bans.
“We recognize that indoors restrictions are the norm today, so most people expect a smoke-free business environment,” he said.
In 2000, not a single state had indoor smoking bans for all workplaces, restaurants and bars, but by 2010, 26 states and the District of Columbia had such bans, according to a 2011 study by the CDC. Another 10 states had laws that prohibited smoking in some indoor public spaces, and eight states had laws restricting where people could smoke indoors.
By 2013, the number of states with full indoor smoking bans was at 29 plus the District of Columbia, according to a map put together by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Additionally, a 2013 AP article reported the number of outdoor smoking bans at places like city parks, public beaches and college campuses had nearly doubled in the previous five years to 2,600.
Millions of illnesses attributed to smoking
Smoking rates have continued to decline over the years — 20.9 percent of adults in the U.S. smoked cigarettes in 2005, and that percentage dropped to 18.1 percent by 2012, according to the CDC.
But even though smoking rates are dropping, there are still plenty of people who are sick because of cigarettes. Fourteen million serious illnesses and 480,000 annual deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to smoking.