The Business Council of New York State, whose membership includes almost 4,000 member firms as well as hundreds of chambers of commerce and professional trade associations, has reviewed the above mentioned legislation and supports its enactment.
This bill would amend the public health law and permit smoking in certain, limited indoor workplace areas.
Employers and employees in New York State have been subject to workplace smoking restrictions for well over ten years. With few exceptions, providing employees with a smoke-free workplace has been a requirement properly managed by employers across the state.
Prior to the enactment of Chapter 13 of the laws of 2003, non-smoking areas in cafeterias and lunch rooms had to be sufficient to meet demand while work areas could be set aside for smoking if all employees in that area agreed. In addition, by virtue of their size and physical layout, factories and warehouses were permitted to secure a waiver if they could demonstrate that the effects of smoking on employees were minimal. These allowances will now be eliminated in consideration of employees who do not wish to be exposed to second hand smoke.
When the first restrictions became law over a decade ago, a significant number of employers throughout the state, as a consideration to their smoking and non-smoking employees, made investments in the thousands of dollars to construct rooms, away from actual employee work areas, where smoking was permitted. These rooms were equipped with separate ventilation systems so that other employees outside of the rooms would not be exposed to second hand smoke. The construction of these smoking rooms balanced the rights of non-smokers under the new law with positive employee relation considerations for the smokers. It was a win-win for employers and employees. Unfortunately, Chapter 13 also eliminates the use of these types of facilities, facilities that smoking employees and employers clearly wish continued.
The Business Council supports and urges the enactment of S. 5191 and applauds the sponsors for seeing that a middle ground between the goals of restricting smoking in the workplace as a health consideration and the rights of employees engaging in a legal activity is easily achievable.