Home   Uncategorized   Smoking and children do not mix…

Smoking and children do not mix…

…We all know it, but it’s a brave (or stupid) person that takes on an issue like this with a team of 230+ – of which probably a good 15% are smokers!

Over the years, Kids Allowed has tried all sorts to reduce the impact of smoking on children and non smoking colleagues.

When we first opened, 8 years ago, we had a team garden for all colleagues and this doubled up as a smoking area for colleagues.

Colleagues who had had a cig on their break had to spray perfume and use a mouth wash / spray to try and disguise the smell, but we all know this is totally ineffective.

We moved to colleagues, in addition to the above, having to put on a jacket so that the smoke did not make their clothes smell – a little better but still not good enough.

We then moved to a total change of clothes – this helped somewhat but the smell was still there in a colleague’s breath, hair, hands etc.

We then also had non smoking colleagues complaining that their team garden was unpleasant and smelly (and it was) and also the smoke travelled in the air to the other gardens used by the children and, depending on the way the wind was blowing, sometimes came back in to the Centre through the open doors and windows.

So the next step was to move the smoking area out of the team garden to a smoking shelter – but where to locate it? Let’s face it – no one wants the first impression of their nursery to be smokers huddled in a shelter.

Finally, after grappling with the problem for years and making the smoking policy more and more extreme (change your clothes, walk to the smoking shelter – wash your hands, mouth etc), I tabled an agenda item for our operational board meeting, attended by all Managers and asked the question – how do they feel about me banning smoking all together – even on breaks?

I was expecting a million reasons why not to but instead the Managers all agreed that something had to be done. They too were sick of the smell and the bottom line was that smoking and children just do not mix.

It reminds me of the days when everyone went to the pub at lunch and had a few drinks! When I first started office work 20 years ago, this was the case and we all did it. Then the company I worked for brought in a ban on drinking at lunch time – and fair enough – we all performed better in the afternoon when it was brought in and now it is the norm.  I honestly believe this is where smoking and childcare will go over time and we hope that being one of the first to tackle the issue will set a standard for others to follow.

So the first question is – is it legal? We checked and, yes, we can state that smokers, even on their own time over breaks during a shift at Kids Allowed, cannot smoke.

So, we knew we were allowed to do it – next thing is getting the smokers “behind us”.

We started a four month consultation and  worked up a new smoking policy – amendments were then made to the policy during the consultation to take into account the smokers’ views but the basic principal of “no smoking at all while in uniform or on shift – even on breaks” did not change.

Even the smokers mostly recognised that passive smoking and children is a “real” issue and although it is hard on them, on the whole they understand and support what we are doing as it is in the interests of the children.

We decided to time the ban in line with January 1st (New Year’s Resolutions and all that) and have also supported the team with the purchase of the best quality “Electronic Cigarette Starter Kit” for all smokers that wanted them, at the company’s expense. Kids Allowed pays for all colleagues to have basic health cover and this includes a stress management hotline to support and help colleagues trying to quit smoking. To support this further, we also provided colleagues with useful information and web links provided by NHS on stopping smoking.

We also reviewed our disciplinary policy and procedures and have made it clear that in addition to the consultation and notice period for the ban, it will also have “teeth” i.e. intentionally flouting the ban WILL lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Now we have taken the brave step, we have to see it through.

I honestly hope we don’t need to make an example out of anyone as it would be such a shame but we will if we have to, otherwise it will not be taken seriously.

In the last 4 months, we have also changed our recruitment process to make it clear what the expectations are regarding smoking for new colleagues so that anyone joining the company does so with their “eyes wide open”.

We are only 2 days in but what we are doing seems to have peaked a lot of interest.

Our parents have been very supportive overall. Stop smoking medicines online from OnHealthy canadian reliable pharmacy. One parent, also a smoker, is “appalled” at what we are doing but we are never going to please everyone.

It still amazes me when I see nursery nurses (not from Kids Allowed I might add!) walking around in their uniforms smoking and I am even more amazed at the commercial naivety of allowing smokers to congregate at the entrance of nurseries to have a smoke.

So what are our motives for doing this? They are both commercial and health conscious. It is a commercially sound decision as it differentiates us and keeps our existing customers very happy and this all helps set us apart as a provider that is setting rather than following the standards.

However, the overriding reason is that the health of the children we look after must come first and in the long run, it will also help the health of the colleagues that smoke.

So do you feel brave? Start the consultation with the team now and let’s help childcare become a totally no smoking sector…

Jennie Johnson

Chief Executive and Founder

Kids Allowed

Twitter:  @KA_Jennie

Website: www.kidsallowed.com

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14 Comments

  • Neil Henty

    A very interesting and thought provoking piece. The real surprise being that more nurseries and nursery chains haven’t implemented similar policies. Unfortunately, smoking seems to be one of those things that people draw battle lines over, so maybe education can really start at nursery for all ages, not just for children.

  • Neil Henty

    The more you think about it, the more it makes such obvious sense. But then I am non-smoking parent.

  • Colin Johnson

    Like Neil, I am probably biased being a non-smoker but when my children were in nursery I certainly did not like seeing staff smoking outside the entrance. For me it is a great decision both health wise (for children and staff!) and commercially.

  • Andrew K Steen

    As a non-smoking parent I detest the thought of my daughter enduring passive smoking at nursery. Whilst I appreciate the wind direction does change it is something that should not happen. I also question the message that children receive when they see their nursery nurses who they respect and look up to having a cigarette pre/during or post work. I would be interested to read further updates on the impact of this policy as we progress through 2012. As a parent it is not a hard choice to choose between a non-smoking nursery and a smoking permitted nursery

  • Sheila

    We are so much more aware now, so excellent that Kids Allowed have adopted a total ban and encourage parents too. A few years ago (aged 59!) I was diagnosed with COPD which I was told was a result of my father’s smoking at home when I was a child. All those years of being accused of having a ‘smoker’s cough’ and never being able to do anything strenuous twice in a row, getting out of breath when walking uphill etc., made sense.

  • Natalie A's Mum

    As an ex-smoker and Kids Allowed parent, I highly commend the brave and progressive steps that Jennie and her team have taken to protect our children from the highly-publicised effects of passive smoking. When my daughter was born I went to great lengths to minimise the effect of passive smoking on her from family members, so I was very concerned about how this would play out in the nursery setting. The parent that is ‘appalled’ at what Kids Allowed are doing should be appalled at what they are doing to their own children at home. I am proud to send my daughter to a nursery that prioritises the wellbeing of its children over the so-called ‘needs’ of adults.

  • Stefanie W

    I have thought of introducing something similiar at the Nursery I manage but any suggestion has always met with loud disapproval from all those staff that do smoke. I am introducing more strict measures to try and limit the effects but these seem like a band aid over the real problem. Until I can get the directors on board I feel that my efforts are a lost cause but it is something I will continue to push for.

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