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Smoking on Job Is Getting Harder : 70% of Companies Surveyed Have or Plan Restrictions

February 23, 1988|Associated Press

EVANSTON, Ill. — A survey of 226 large and medium-sized American companies found 70% have restricted or are prepared to limit smoking in the workplace, researchers said Monday.

Companies have imposed such rules as allowing smoking only in designated areas, segregating workers by smoking preference and equipping smokers with smokeless ashtrays, according to the 42nd annual Northwestern University Lindquist-Endicott Report. "I was really surprised at the extent to which this had surfaced as a personnel issue," said Victor Lindquist, author of the survey. "Today, smoking is pretty passe."

Along with the trend toward smoking restrictions, the survey found that 38% of the companies now conduct pre-employment testing for drug use and 8% said they would begin such testing in the next year.

Included for First Time

The survey also found that 2.2% of the companies plan to begin pre-employment testing for exposure to the deadly AIDS virus by the end of the year, Lindquist said.

The corporations responding to the 1988 questionnaire represented a cross section of major industrial and geographic sectors. Lindquist declined to identify any of the companies surveyed.

Lindquist said it was the first year he had asked companies about smoking policies in the survey, which began in 1945 and is used by corporations to help establish starting salaries and review personnel trends.

Lindquist, Northwestern's director of placement, said Monday that he decided to ask companies about smoking policies because "smoking began to surface more often as a contentious personnel issue."

USG Corp., a Chicago-based maker of acoustical ceiling tile and thermal insulation, drew national headlines a year ago when it warned its 1,300 workers to quit smoking at work and at home or face possible firing.

The survey found only one company that had completely banned on-the-job smoking, but several prohibited smoking in the private offices of corporate executives, Lindquist said.

Although 70% of the companies surveyed restricted smoking or were planning to do so, just 34% said they discussed that policy with job applicants during interviews, he said.

"The injurious effects of passive smoking have been well-publicized, and people object to working in that kind of environment," Lindquist said.

"It seems to me that organizations are really trying to bend over to be accommodating to the nonsmoker. There also were more firms spending money to help their employees stop smoking."

Sees a Discrepancy

Walker Merryman, vice president of The Tobacco Institute, a Washington-based lobbying group for the industry, said he couldn't comment on the survey's findings without details about the types, locations and identities of the companies surveyed.

But he said the 70% finding "is substantially higher than anything I've seen recently."

The Northwestern survey also found:

- One percent of the companies said they will begin pre-employment genetic testing to screen for possible diseases.

- Twenty percent provide payroll services that allow employees to have money deducted from paychecks that is designated to pay for day care and is tax-free.

- Starting salaries for students with a bachelor's degree will be up 4.2% this year, ranging from $22,600 to $30,000 for an engineering graduate.

- The demand for engineers increased 14% over the 1987 survey, while the need for accountants was up 10% and the demand for computer programmers and related skills was up 10%.

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