The benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle have just been increased for employees of Piala Inc., a Japanese marketing firm. The company, based in Tokyo, started giving non-smoking employees six more vacation days per year than to their colleagues who smoke. Non-smoking workers had complained that they were working longer and harder than their smoking colleagues, and this new policy is a way to reward the non-smokers.
The breaks that are being discussed are not just five-minute affairs. Each smoke break lasts for around 15 minutes, and over time, these breaks add up. Moreover, the amount of time smokers devote to smoking during work hours usually exceeds six days. This problem is a big issue for Piala, as 35 percent of its employees smoke.
Because the breaks do take place during working hours, which is the company’s time, the policy is a fair one. The company is being kind to workers by even allowing them to take smoke breaks in the first place, and it makes sense for workers who do not take advantage of this opportunity to receive a reward for not taking these breaks.
Though many may argue that it is unfair to punish those who smoke, this new policy is not actually punishing anyone; rather, it is just rewarding those who do not smoke. This is a great push for workers to quit smoking, as the majority of them know that smoking is terrible for their health in the first place. Piala’s CEO Takao Asuka said that he “hope[s] to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties and coercion.”
Save for the equality factor of giving non-smokers these vacation days, the company is trying to discourage its workers from smoking at all with this policy. Encouraging people not to smoke will not only cut out the extensive breaks that smoking workers take, but it will also improve their health, which would benefit Piala in the long run. The number of people who smoke in Japan is exponentially higher than the number in the United States, as 130,000 Japanese people die because of cigarettes each year. This is a small part of the larger effort in Japan to decrease the smoking rate.
This policy would never happen in the United States because people would think that this is a form of discrimination. In reality, this is not discriminatory in any way.
Discrimination is being prejudiced against someone unjustly, based on a condition that someone cannot control. Smoking is a choice that can be controlled, no matter how difficult it is to quit once a person becomes addicted. Though many people may be swayed by the benefits of quitting smoking, those who do not want to quit may be bitter about missing out on this promotion, and in response, might take longer and more frequent smoke breaks.
The measure is already working: four of the 45 Piala Inc. workers who smoke have already quit since the policy was initiated in September. The incentive of paid vacation days is a great way for companies to get workers to do what the company desires, and preventing people from smoking is a perfect use of this power.