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Is smoking bad for your business?

By February 3, 2009January 10th, 20216 Comments


We all know smoking is bad for your health, but is it bad for your business, too?

Here are three examples where, at the very least, the customer experience was damaged by a company’s lackadaisical smoking policies:

  1. Yesterday, two of my co-workers saw a cool bakery truck that caught their attention. The driver had on a nice uniform, and clearly his employer had invested in their brand.Then they saw the driver puffing away on a cigarette in his truck.The thought of the smoke getting to the baked goods and then him handling the product, well, grossed them out.
  2. At a restaurant I frequent for lunch, one of the cooks takes a smoke break in front of the establishment then comes back in, washes his hands, and gets back to work.The smoke wafts in often, and when he walks by he smells like a stale pack of smokes. Let’s just say it’s not very appetizing.
  3. My family stayed at a decent hotel right across the street from the main gate at Disneyland last year. The hotel had gone to great lengths to make the entry an experience—with one exception: The pickup and drop-off area featured a bench and a couple of ashtrays.The first time we walked into the hotel, we were treated to a dose of second-hand smoke that took about five years off my life. I thought this was a one-time occurrence, but nearly every time we walked into the hotel, we had to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke.

I know, this isn’t the Responsible Smoking blog. It’s about marketing.

But considering smoking is on the decline in the U.S., and 80.2% of the people in this country are non-smokers, can you ignore the potential damage your smoking policies may have on your brand?

Can you afford the negative word of mouth?

Am I overreacting, or is this a legitimate concern?

What do you think?

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Image: Current

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Shawn says:

    Yes, can you imagine your pizza driver smoking on his way to your house?

  • This is a legitimate business concern… and you mention some obvious (walking through a cloud of smoke near an entrance) and not-so-obvious (smoking bakery truck driver) instances where an impression was created by smoking. In one case, the business received the benefit (this time, anyway) because you did stay at the hotel. In the other, the business lost revenue (no bakery products were purchased).

    Here’s another one… a large company, headquartered in mid-town Tulsa, OK, has gone to a “smoke-free campus” policy. Does this eliminate the smoke cloud just outside any entrance? Yes. Seems to be a good thing, right? Except now exiled smoking employees wander across the street, into an adjacent neighborhood (mine) and smoke on the sidewalks, leaving their butts and ashes on the ground all around their favorite “sitting wall.” The neighborhood is full of children, lots of walkers/joggers, and now we get to inhale the smoke cloud instead, plus deal with the refuse, since our neighborhood is now their ashtray.
    Do you think anyone is this neighborhood will ever (spoiler alert) rent a car from this company again? And I’ve shared my unhappiness with their policy in various places. Why not a smoking area, with appropriate receptacles, ON THEIR PROPERTY but away from any entrance or customer-visible area?
    Sticky situation, and I do understand the personal right to smoke, but really… did they think this one through, or was it just a “work healthy initiative” to impress their insurance actuaries?

  • As far as I know, there is *no such thing* as “responsible smoking.” It is a polluting, littering, and poisonous habit. That said, there are ways to smoke that limit the impact on others, one of which is NOT to smoke near doorways, and another is to pick up the bleeping butts! I have *never* understood why people who would not throw other garbage on the street think nothing of tossing their butts.

    But they don’t biodegrade (most have plastic parts), they are awash with toxic chemicals, they cause hazards for wildlife and small children, they wash down sewers and pollute the water.

    I think most smokers are good people and don’t have a clue at how nasty this stuff is. Patrick, you and I have been talking for over a year about some sort of collaboration–maybe a pro bono campaign to educate smokers could be it. I don’t mind doing the writing if you could take on design and distribution. Maybe we could even get funding from tobacco companies as part of their settlements with the states.

    OK, rant over.

    BTW, did Obama quit smoking before being sworn in? If he didn’t, I doubt very much he’ll do so while in office.

    I’ve been an antismoking activist since age three, and was initiated the first legally required smoke-free zones in Northampton, MA.

  • Brian says:

    I like to smoke alot

  • Brian: Um, good luck with that.

  • Deblos says:

    people do many things that satisfy there feelings in this world. Are you telling me that all the things u consume or do are good for everyone, U are too much poking into other people’s business, If u wanna put policies do that only at your company not to everone u meet on the road. Everything does stink:………. garlic, wine, beer, amongest other things , and those u think u do in secret, personally I hate those things so does it mean I hv to fire my workers that consume such things. Mind your business and let people live there live, only God the creator is the one to Judge, if u can’t stand it why bothering going to such places or eating food u think has been polluted by cigarette smoke, be reasonable.

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