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Providing a smokefree environment

In December 2004, amendments to the Smoke-free Environments Act (1990)came into force.

The amendments mean all employers have a legal obligation to ensure all internal work areas (with very few exceptions, such as some work vehicles and 'home-like' environments) are completely smokefree.

All indoor public spaces also became smokefree from this time.

The law’s extension was aimed at reducing the number of people exposed to second-hand smoke, restricting under-18s’ access to tobacco, reducing negative influences on young people and further promoting a smokefree lifestyle as the norm.

The first piece of smokefree legislation in New Zealand, the 1990 Act, regulated smokefree workplaces and public areas.

It also regulated the marketing, advertising and promotion of tobacco products, as well as the presence of harmful ingredients in tobacco.

Smokefree places

The following places must be smokefree at all times:

  • The buildings and grounds of all schools and early childhood centres at any time on any day.
  • Indoor areas of licensed premises and workplaces ('licensed premises' includes bars, restaurants, cafés, sports clubs and casinos; 'workplaces' includes offices, factories, warehouses, work canteens and break rooms).
  • Certain enclosed travel premises, such as queuing areas and waiting rooms.

More and more people are switching to vaping (e-cigarettes) as a way to quit smoking. The Smoke-free Environments Act does not say where people can/can’t vape. If you want your workplace to be vape-free, you will need to specifically include this in your Smokefree at work policy.”

What does the smokefree law mean for employers?

With very limited exceptions, the law requires all employers to take action to ensure workplaces are smokefree by taking reasonably practicable steps including:

  • displaying smokefree signs in the workplace
  • referring to a smokefree policy in workplace employment agreements and recruitment policies
  • notifying service contractors and visitors of the smokefree policy
  • training managers and supervisors on what to do if someone smokes in the workplace.

Employers can refuse to employ someone because they smoke as smoking is not covered by the Human Rights Act. 

Making a complaint

If smoking occurs in a workplace and the employer has failed to take such steps, an employee may lodge a complaint.

To make a complaint under smokefree law, contact a Smoke-free Enforcement Officer. Contact numbers can be found on the Ministry of Health website.

More detailed information and guidance on the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 and its amendments can also be found on the Ministry of Health’s website.

Want to create a totally smokefree workplace policy? Check out the Northland Intersectoral Forum's guide to creating a smokefree workplace.

Read more about smokefree policies in New Zealand.

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