Subscribe to our RSS feed

Popular News Stories

  • Fuck poz guys!
  • BareBackRT.com  - the interview
  • Dead porn stars society: HIV heroes of the arts:  (6)
  • Tom Hanks in Philadelphia Changed my Life
  • Canadian AIDS Society’s AGM and PHA Forum in Ottawa: some scholarships for HIVers available

Smoking Cessation

Apr28

Smoking in the (HIV) workplace

Tuesday, 28 April 2015 Written by // Bob Leahy - Editor Categories // Health, Smoking Cessation , Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Bob Leahy

Editor Bob Leahy on the issues which Ontario AIDS Service Organizations are starting to face regarding staff who smoke during work hours - and smoking outside the premises

Smoking in the (HIV) workplace

What's the problem?

I’m sympathetic to smokers. Honestly. I was one myself after all. In some ways I miss smoking. I quit not because of health concerns - I can be hopeless at looking after myself - but because the spiralling cost of cigarettes was eating  too large a hole in my wallet. 

Looking back though, it’s clear the evidence was in even then. Who doesn’t know that smoking is bad for your health?  And if you are person living with HIV, it’s doubly so. Research suggests that it's the biggest predictor of early death for people living with HIV, knocking no less than seven years off an average life span. . Then there is the made-in-Ontario research which points to the prospect of increased hospitalization and reduced quality of life poz smokers can expect.

It’s hard too not to notice that smoking is an increasingly frowned upon (think stigmatized) habit. Who needs extra stigma?

Nevertheless smoking rates in people living with HIV, while on the way down, are approximately twice the national average. There are many, and complex, reasons for why that is, but that’s the reality.

Time to give those who want to quit a helping hand? The Positive Quitting Project, which I’ve talked about here before (led by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, PositiveLite.com and a consortium of community representatives and smoking cessation specialists), thinks so.

The project is focussed on people living with HIV who smoke cigarettes. But what about the people who serve and support them, those with whom they interact in AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) who themselves may be smokers? That piece raises tricky issues like:

  • Does existing legislation which governs smoking in the workplace protect ASO staff and clients enough?
  • Should the role of ASO staffers be to model behaviors that are not harmful to the health and wellbeing of their clients? (Or alternatively, is their merit in staffers being seen to be struggling with the same issues that clients themselves are facing?)
  • Should ASO staffers be allowed to smoke at all during work hours?
  • What about smoking right outside the workplace, or at agency functions?
  • If an ASO worker visits a client’s home to provide support services, should the staffer be protected from the impact of second hand smoke by only accessing smoke free environments?
  • Should we be looking at providing a smoke free environment right outside ASO entrances and exits?
  • What policies need to be put in place at the ASO to protect the interests of staffers and clients alike? 

The law says what?

What’s covered by existing legislation? Right now in Ontario smoking in the workspace – any workplace - is strictly prohibited. The Smoke-Free Ontario Act came into force in May 2006. The Act prohibits smoking in enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places in Ontario in order to protect workers and the public from the hazards of second-hand smoke.

Looking further in to what is the law, the provincial legislative requirement regarding smoking outside healthcare buildings is also addressed in the act. For example, the act prohibits smoking outdoors within nine metres of entrances and exits of health care facilities.  The Act establishes a minimum standard that applies across the province. The legislation also provides sufficient flexibility for municipalities to adopt local bylaws that go beyond its requirements.

The reach of such legislation is expanding. In January of this year Ontario added other areas where smoking is not allowed - on and around children’s playgrounds and publicly owned sport fields and surfaces (e.g., areas for basketball, baseball, soccer or beach volleyball, ice rinks, tennis courts, splash pads and swimming pools that are owned by a municipality, the province or a postsecondary education institution).

More locally, Toronto bylaws additionally cover municipal buildings (e.g. City Hall, civic centres, recreation and community centres, libraries, arenas and administrative offices), shopping malls, stores, offices and institutional buildings, multi-residential buildings (e.g., condos and apartments) restaurants, bars, cafes and outdoor patios

Notice the embargo on smoking within the vicinity of healthcare facilities contained in the Ontario legislation. One could ask why similar concerns might not apply to the health of those entering and exiting ASO premises. Yet to date, as far as I’m aware, none has taken the step of imposing a nine metre smoke free zone outside an agency entrance.

Smokers tend to congregate. It’s a social thing. Even as a smoker I worried about the message sent by a gaggle of smokers like myself outside an ASO or HIV conference doors. True, those huddled groups were great for networking; I still miss that opportunity to chat and share stories during breaks. But now, and while the numbers indulging seems less, the sight gives pause for thought

The future?

Some ASOs are starting to look at their own policies, to see to what extent staff smoking is at all in conflict with their core values of promoting the health and wellness of staff and clients alike; second hand smoke is a bothersome issue, after all.

One such Ontario example is Positive Living Niagara that has recently adopted a set of policies governing staff smoking. An extract is shown below. (A second set of policies covers client smoking issues.)

I asked the agency’s Executive Director Glen Walker what prompted the agency to draw up these policies. Explained Walker “These policy documents came out of presentations at the (Ontario) Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance Summit session on smoking and the realization that as an organization we were supporting a dangerous and unhealthy practice that was jeopardizing the health of the people we support who have HIV. It was also clear that we had developed a culture within the agency which did not fit within current health and safety legislation as well. Since we operate from a harm reduction model of intervention it was important to pass on the information on the harmful effects of smoking and ensure we were keeping our employees safe in accordance with legislation. We wanted to do this while still creating a supportive environment that would allow the people we support and staff to modify their smoking habits when they saw fit.”  

But what is their role in all this? Does Walker feel it’s the implied function of staff to be role models or model behaviours that promote the health and wellbeing of the agency’s clients?

Walker says this: “We believe that staff should promote good health and model health behaviours as much as possible. In particular we should not be conducting our business of promoting healthy living with our clients while we are smoking with them and effectively endangering their health while we are doing this. “ 

The reaction to all this? Walker says that many clients and staff have been supportive of this initiative and feel it reflects the healthy life-style the agency promotes. “A few clients believe it is their right to smoke in the presence of our staff in their homes” he says. “When we talk about our reasons for the policies, and our legal obligations, everyone has been understanding and cooperative. In fact we have been able to support one of our clients to attend a smoking cessation program at our local health clinic.”

Positive Living Niagara’s newsletter article on the topic has also sparked discussions with clients and provided information which many were not aware of, he says. “So many of us were not aware of the significant impacts smoking has on people living with HIV and this initiative has been an eye opener for many of us.”

The way of the future? Other ASOs are contemplating policies of their own and support for individuals who need help to quit. Stay tuned for news as this story develops.

Resources:

Information on crafting workplace smoking policies can be found here:

.http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/smoke-freecommunities/createasmoke-freeworkplace/smoking-in-the-workplace-a-model-policy

http://www.projecthealth.ca/sites/default/files/DOCS_ADMIN-%231183737-v1-HKPR_SMOKE-FREE_WORKPLACE_KIT.PDF

http://www.mhp.gov.on.ca/en/smoke-free/legislation/

http://www.ontario.ca/health-and-wellness/smoke-free-ontario

Arts and Entertainment Section

Activism Section

  • My HIV story

    My HIV story

    New York poz guy Felix Garmendia returns with .his story. "HIV struck me like a lightning bolt but it also helped me validate the wonders of life, friendship, love, and compassion.".
  • PrEP access in Canada needs fixing

    PrEP access in Canada needs fixing

    B.C.'s. Health Initiative for Men (HIM) launches open letter calling on Gilead Sciences to make immediate application to Health Canada for use of Truvada in HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Please consider adding your name.
  • What have I gotten myself into?

    What have I gotten myself into?

    Rodney Rousseau didn’t even have a bike. But now he’s in training for a 600 kilometer bike ride from Toronto to Montreal in aid of the Toronto PWA Foundation. Here’s his story

Current Affairs Section

Events Section

Features and Interviews Section

  • Military justice revisited

    Military justice revisited

    His case reopened, Lt. Colonel Ken Pinkela talks to Editor Bob Leahy about why there may be light at the end of the tunnel in the fight to find him innocent of the charge that he engaged in unprotected sex with another officer while HIV-positive.
  • Derek Canas's story

    Derek Canas's story

    He was infected as an infant via a blood transfusion, but not diagnosed with AIDS until 16 years later. Derek, now founder of the #endthestigma campaign, tells his story to Samantha for PositiveLite.com
  • Is PrEP right for me?

    Is PrEP right for me?

    In a video interview, PositiveLite.com talks with Ryan Lisk and Mason McColl of the AIDS Committee of Toronto about the agency’s new education campaign to start conversations and share information about the use of Truvada as PrEP in the Canadian context.

Health Section

International Section

  • Insurance trends for HIV-positive people

    Insurance trends for HIV-positive people

    Research from UK firm “Unusual Risks” says that the majority of people living with HIV take less than four days off work a year but still find it hard to get income protection
  • [In]justice at its Worst

    [In]justice at its Worst

    Our Montréal correspondent — and former lawyer — Ken Monteith rants about the latest HIV criminalization case from south of the border in which the accused man was given a 60-year jail term
  • Military justice revisited

    Military justice revisited

    His case reopened, Lt. Colonel Ken Pinkela talks to Editor Bob Leahy about why there may be light at the end of the tunnel in the fight to find him innocent of the charge that he engaged in unprotected sex with another officer while HIV-positive.

Legal Section

  • Insurance trends for HIV-positive people

    Insurance trends for HIV-positive people

    Research from UK firm “Unusual Risks” says that the majority of people living with HIV take less than four days off work a year but still find it hard to get income protection
  • [In]justice at its Worst

    [In]justice at its Worst

    Our Montréal correspondent — and former lawyer — Ken Monteith rants about the latest HIV criminalization case from south of the border in which the accused man was given a 60-year jail term
  • Military justice revisited

    Military justice revisited

    His case reopened, Lt. Colonel Ken Pinkela talks to Editor Bob Leahy about why there may be light at the end of the tunnel in the fight to find him innocent of the charge that he engaged in unprotected sex with another officer while HIV-positive.

Lifestyle Section

Living with HIV Section

Media Section

Opinion Pieces Section

  • My virus has a first name

    My virus has a first name

    Brian Finch and Daniel Uy trade stories about being sick - and naming their viruses like hurricanes
  • Hello my name is Tom. Fancy a date?

    Hello my name is Tom. Fancy a date?

    “Ever since being diagnosed HIV-positive nearly three years ago, my dating game has changed or completely disappeared to put it more accurately. I actually can’t remember the last time I went on a date, I can’t even remember the last time I had sex."
  • [In]justice at its Worst

    [In]justice at its Worst

    Our Montréal correspondent — and former lawyer — Ken Monteith rants about the latest HIV criminalization case from south of the border in which the accused man was given a 60-year jail term

Population Specific Section

  • The Fourth of July invasion

    The Fourth of July invasion

    New York City poz guy Felix Garmendia joins the Fire Island drag queen invasion as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and says” Frida taught me that there can be beauty and indeed TRIUMPH in what appears to be a broken body”
  • Hello my name is Tom. Fancy a date?

    Hello my name is Tom. Fancy a date?

    “Ever since being diagnosed HIV-positive nearly three years ago, my dating game has changed or completely disappeared to put it more accurately. I actually can’t remember the last time I went on a date, I can’t even remember the last time I had sex."
  • [In]justice at its Worst

    [In]justice at its Worst

    Our Montréal correspondent — and former lawyer — Ken Monteith rants about the latest HIV criminalization case from south of the border in which the accused man was given a 60-year jail term

Sex and Sexuality Section

  • Hello my name is Tom. Fancy a date?

    Hello my name is Tom. Fancy a date?

    “Ever since being diagnosed HIV-positive nearly three years ago, my dating game has changed or completely disappeared to put it more accurately. I actually can’t remember the last time I went on a date, I can’t even remember the last time I had sex."
  • Risk for me and risk for you

    Risk for me and risk for you

    Our Montreal correspondent Ken Monteith delves into personal risk assessment, and emerges with a fairy tale all his own.
  • Too much sex?

    Too much sex?

    Being poz and sex positive in New York City in the 90s, Felix Garmendia was asked by the Advocate magazine back then “how much sex is too much?”. Now writing, for PositiveLite.com he provides an update.

MarketPlace