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Civil rights group condemns Cominco’s anti-smoking policy

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A new anti-smoking policy at Cominco Ltd. in Trail, B.C. has far-reaching civil liberties implications for the privacy and autonomy of employees.

The new policy bans any smoking on Cominco property and the possession on a person of any tobacco or smokeless tobacco products.

The Cominco property is very large. Most employees do not have the option of simply leaving the grounds in order to smoke. The fact that it can take some employees ten minutes or more to leave the property means that habituated smokers would not be able to smoke at coffee breaks and only with difficulty during lunch.

According to Kay Stockholder, president of the Association, the BCCLA has two objections to the policy: “First, the absolute prohibition on smoking on the property has no rationale other than that it is for the employees’ own good. This is an unacceptably paternalistic attitude, one that treats employees as children and unduly limits their autonomy and subjects employees to unwarranted physical and emotional stress. “Second, the policy also raises the spectre of demeaning personal searches of employees, as well as the problem of informing on fellow employees.”

The BCCLA expressed these concerns directly to Cominco Ltd. almost two months ago. Despite assurances that a reply to our concerns would be forthcoming, the BCCLA has yet to receive a formal response.