Lighting up at the thought of a break

August 16, 2017

Lighting up at the thought of a break

Young people working in bars and restaurants are turning to smoking to get more breaks. Photo: Anna Thompson

Some young hospitality workers in New Zealand appear to be taking up smoking just to help get through their shifts.

Matthew Simpson, manager at Chamber bar in downtown Auckland, said he had noticed an increase in young people starting to smoke and put it down to hospitality work.

“I quit a couple of times and the first day back in the hospitality industry, I was back on it.”

He agreed that young people were after more breaks by smoking. “Pretty much. It was definitely what I did.”

Eighteen to 24-year-olds are among the heaviest smokers in the nation and tend to fill hospitality jobs.

According to the Smoke-Free Environment Act 1990, employers must take all reasonably practicable steps to make sure that no one smokes in the workplace.

According to the Human Rights Commission, an employer can refuse to hire someone if they are a smoker, because the Human Rights Act does not include the right to smoke.

However, if smokers are hired, managers must allow those employees to take short breaks.

“In the past what worked for me was [giving staff] one break every two hours, as long as we’re quiet,” said Mr Simpson.

“But now I just allow people to go when they need, as long as they’re not taking the piss. We make it work for them.”

Former general manager of North Shore restaurant Sausalito Adriana Zapien said smokers were better workers with breaks.

“It’s not that you want to give them more [breaks], but they start getting cranky when they don’t have them.

“Most managers see it as an okay thing because they [often] smoke as well. Me personally, if it was quiet I would let them go but it had to count as part of their break.”

Dylan Firth, from Hospitality New Zealand, said smoking had always been prevalent in hospitality.

“It’s a fast-paced, stressful environment.

“Managers should be trying to reduce stress. Just roster more people on. A good manager can make or break a business and [should] know what’s going on around them.”

Statistics published in March show that 18 to 24-year-olds have the highest smoking rate of any group at 24 precent of current smokers.

Blair Ratu, 21, said he used to smoke both before and after his shift. His job as a kitchen hand was “a contributing factor to starting smoking”.

Eighteen-year-old Kavannaugh Blade said she was “strongly considering” taking up smoking, having seen the breaks smokers got at her workplace.

“Even if I didn’t, I would say that I did just to get more breaks. It’s not good for you but more breaks means more people are [encouraged to smoke].”

Waitress Allison Muir-Mcbride agreed. “I got sick of picking up other people’s tables, plus maintaining my own tables, while my co-workers pissed off out the back for a smoke. So I started joining them.”

With New Zealand aiming to have less than 5 per cent of the population smoking before 2025, the trend of young smokers is worrying the smoke-free movement.

Zoe Hawke, national manager from the National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service, said it was “shocking”.

“Smoke breaks are not the solution. Workplaces need to support their staff to be smoke-free as smoking actually increases stress, not reduces it.

“That’s definitely a barrier to our 2025 goals.”

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