As a ban on smoking in public looms in the UK, a new survey shows that the UK has the lowest rate of smoking of 10 European countries.
The poll of more than 14,000 workers in Europe also found that the workplace smoke break is the source of serious divisions between smokers and non-smokers.
The Kelly World at Work survey found that only 13% of UK workers surveyed admitted to taking time out for smoking breaks while at work. This was the lowest of any European country surveyed.
Norway recorded Europe’s highest rate of workplace smoking, at 26%, followed by France (23%), Germany and Italy (22%), Scandinavia (21%), Netherlands (20%), Belgium (18%), Spain and Russia (both 15%) and UK (13%).
The publication of the survey coincides with the beginning of a three-month consultation about whether the government should ban smoking in public places.
Of those who do smoke at work, the majority took smoking breaks 1-3 times a day, causing tension among non-smoking workmates who believe it results in lost productivity.
Nearly half (45%) of all non-smokers in the UK survey said that smoking breaks result in decreased productivity. Older workers are far less tolerant, with 61% saying it reduces productivity.
Steve Girdler, marketing director of Kelly Services UK, said the findings show how much of an issue the workplace smoking break has become.
“It is clear that the issue of smoking breaks is causing friction among non-smoking workers, who resent the amount of time that their colleagues spend out of the immediate workplace,” he said.
“Some organisations have started to limit the number of smoking breaks [allowed] in an effort to address this problem.”
Among smokers, 43% think smoking breaks increase their productivity, and a further 52% believe they do not affect their output either way.