Should Non-Smokers Be Given Fresh-Air Breaks?

The cases for and against granting people fresh air breaks.

Smoking is not so sexy anymore.
Smoking Not so sexy anymore

It’s a discussion had in many an office space over the years: should non-smokers be given fresh air breaks to balance out the time smokers spend outside puffing away?

And according to research from Flavour Boss, around 80 per cent of the British public reckon it’s unfair that non-smokers don’t get their own breaks.

Around 58 per cent also believe non-smokers deserve fresh-air breaks at work. There will be those smokers of course that argue five minutes here or there doesn’t make that much difference to the average day – but where do you stand?

Here are the cases for and against giving non-smoker’s fresh air breaks.

The case of having fresh air breaks

Ricky Gervais in The Office.
Ricky Gervais Doing charity in The Office. Image BBC
  1. Improves Productivity

Everyone experiences the occasional lull in the workplace – that’s what coffee is for. But maybe proper, regulated breaks could be the answer? It certainly did the trick back at school.

In fact, a study by the University Of Illinois actually showed how breaks can help to improve your ability to focus for extended periods of time. Fresh-air breaks could help you gain a new perspective or enthusiasm for the task at hand. 

  1.  Health Benefits

Everyone sits down way too much these days. You are probably sat down reading this. Fresh-air breaks could be a welcome tool to help combat these increasingly sedentary work lifestyles.

Standing up, stretching out and going for a short walk during the work day could also help increase the daily step count. There’s science to back this one up too – a 2015 study from the University of Utah revealed engaging in light physical activity for just two minutes an hour may reduce the risk of an early death by a staggering 33%.

  1. Workplace equality

There’s a question of fairness to all of these too. Smokers get more breaks because of something they have chosen to do. It’s about equality and it’s evidently something that bugs a lot of people –  80% of people in the Flavour Boss survey said they don’t think it’s fair that non-smokers aren’t offered the chance to take a brief break away from their post every so often.

The case against freshair breaks

The Best US Remake Ever?
No! Just no. Image NBC
  1. Impractical

Introducing regular breaks for everyone could lead to chaos at key times in the workplace. Say you want to have a quick meeting or chat with a colleague or someone tries to call them at their desk but they are on a break.

Also, who the hell is going to spend time coordinating all of these break times? It might have worked at school, but it wouldn’t work here.

  1. Wouldn’t always work

Fresh-air breaks are all well and good but where would these people go? The area the smokers go? That would kind of defeat the purpose. And with some offices being located in less than appealing areas of the country, they could be seriously limited when it comes to finding a place to go for a fresh-air break.

The only real solution would be for it to become a legal requirement for companies to offer a fresh-air area. Good luck with that.

  1. The cost to the employers

Ultimately it will come down to the bottom line for most companies. Sure, smoking breaks are not ideal but combine them with fresh-air breaks and you have a significant chunk of the average working day being wasted where it once proved productive.

Say the average employee smokes four cigarettes a day, and each cigarette takes five minutes to smoke. That’s 20 minutes of additional breaks a day. 20 minutes a day equates to one hour and 40 minutes a week. That’s more than 86 hours over a 12-month period. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of giving smokers around ten extra days’ holiday a year.


Would any employers be happy giving the same to everyone else? Perhaps fresh-air breaks are not the answer, perhaps a ban on smoking altogether is. There’s always vaping, after all.

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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.