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Camel maker Reynolds snuffs out workplace smoking
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Camel maker Reynolds snuffs out workplace smoking

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Want to know how far the no-smoking movement has come?

Starting in 2015, Reynolds American Inc. and its subsidiaries will launch a no-smoking policy within its facilities, save for in designated smoking areas. Employees were told of the changes Wednesday.

That means no more smoking of traditional cigarettes, cigars and pipes at the desk, in conference rooms, elevators and in hallways, spokesman David Howard said. The policy applies to all employees, he said.

As of Jan. 1, what will remain permissible in most indoor areas are electronic cigarettes; heat-not-burn cigarettes, such as the Eclipse brand; moist snuff and snus.

“We will restrict traditional smoking to the designated areas as they are put together in 2015 and 2016,” Howard said.

“The bottom line is that we believe it is the right thing to do, updating our tobacco usage policies, at the right time to do it. The policy change will better accommodate nonsmokers and visitors to our facilities.”

Reynolds already made its downtown Winston-Salem headquarters smokefree on the day of its annual shareholder meeting, following requests from attendees. There also has been no smoking on the manufacturing floor, and in company cafeterias and fitness rooms.

Even though Reynolds is the No. 2 U.S. cigarette manufacturer, Howard said its overall workforce of 5,200 “closely mirrors” the percentage of adults – 20 percent – who smoke in the United States.

“The use of tobacco products or cigarettes by our employees is pretty close to in line with what you see out in the general public,” Howard said.

“Recognizing that indoor smoking restrictions are the norm today, and most people expect a smokefree workplace environment, we believe we are better aligning our tobacco use policies with those we’re seeing in the general public.”

Howard said the designated smoking areas are expected “to provide a comfortable atmosphere for adult smokers.”

Part of the timing for the policy change is the expanded portfolio of non-smoking products made by Reynolds, Howard said. For example, Susan Cameron, Reynolds’ chief executive, has made public her preference for consuming Eclipse and Reynolds’ e-cig brand, Vuse.

Howard said the policy would not affect Lorillard Inc. facilities.

Reynolds is pursuing federal regulatory approval for its $27.4 billion offer for Lorillard. Cameron said the companies are hopeful of getting Federal Trade Commission approval on the deal in the first half of 2015.

Ronald Bannon, Lorillard’s investor relations director, said there are no restrictions on smoking for employees and visitors at its Greensboro headquarters. “There are certain areas of our manufacturing facilities that are non-smoking due to fire hazard, safety, product quality protection, or other reasons,” Bannon said.

Vince Willmore, vice president for communications for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said “Reynolds seems to finally be admitting that secondhand smoke harms health after publicly denying it for decades.”

“However, by allowing designated smoking areas, their new policy still fails to provide effective protection from secondhand smoke and the lung cancer and heart disease it causes.”

Dr. Gilbert Ross, medical and executive director of The American Council on Science and Health, said at first blush it appears Reynolds’ new stance “strikes at the height of irony — that one of the world’s oldest and largest makers and seller of cigarettes would mandate smokefree air inside its facilities, aside from designated areas.”

“Although the official mantra regarding carcinogens is that there is ‘no safe level of exposure,’ we know that’s a baseless exaggeration when it comes to secondhand smoke,” Ross said. “In fact, studies have shown only a minuscule link between such exposures and any chronic disease.

“That being said, many people object to their environment being disturbed by cigarette smoke, and the Reynolds management should be applauded for being considerate of their smoke-averse employees, despite being aware of the potential for critical commentary such a move will invite.”

rcraver@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7376

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