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Information adapted from World Health Organisation, National Health and Medical Research Health Council and The Australian Governments Quit material.

Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. Despite this, it is common throughout the world. A number of countries have legislation restricting tobacco advertising, and regulating who can buy and use tobacco products, and where people can smoke. Tobacco smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in Australia.

The Australian Public Service adopted a smoke free work environment policy in 1988 which applies to all Commonwealth workplaces. As a result, smoking is banned in locations where smoke could enter the workplace or where Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) could affect persons entering or leaving a workplace. The APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice states that:

“Government workplaces have been ‘smoke free’ since 1988. APS employees and others working or visiting the APS are not permitted to smoke in the workplace. There are agency-specific policies that set out the responsibilities of APS employees in relation to smoking. There should be no disruption to work caused by employees leaving the workplace to smoke. To encourage the health of employees, some agencies support employee participation in ‘quit-smoking’ programmes and sponsor health promotion activities”.


In addition to tobacco use exposure to ETS occurs from breathing in other people’s tobacco smoke. ETS is emitted from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and from the smoke that is exhaled by a smoker.

Evidence on the detrimental effects of ETS has built over many years. The National Health and Medical Research Council has reviewed scientific evidence concerning the possible health effects of exposure to ETS. It has concluded that exposure to ETS can cause lung cancer and may also cause coronary heart disease in adults.


To minimise risks a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) should:

  • ensure workers do not smoke in places where their smoke could enter a building, where other workers and third parties enter or exit the building, and in frequently used transit areas
  • use signage to indicate smoke free areas or smoking zones
  • develop an educational support program warning workers of the dangers of smoking
  • encourage workers to stop smoking by accessing quit smoking courses through Quit Now.

Where a PCBU is one of several tenants in a building they may need to negotiate as part of a building lease that smoking be banned in certain areas. Where workers are limited to smoking in particular areas outside a building the PCBU should ensure those areas are well ventilated to eliminate the risk of exposure to any ETS.


Information SourceContents
Australian Government Quit Now website Provides a variety of information on quitting smoking
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare - tobacco smoking risk factors Information on the risks of smoking tobacco
Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks This code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety.
Code of Practice – Managing the Work Environment and Facilities Code of Practice on managing risks specifically associated with the Work Environment and Facilities. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.
Code of Practice – First Aid in the Workplace Code of practice on managing risks and regulatory obligations involving the provision of first aid.
Comcare - Smoking in or near Commonwealth workplaces A guide to managing smoking related health and safety risks in work environments


Information sourceWhat it contains
Incident notification - Part 3, Section 35 to 37 of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011 The legislative requirements for incident notification to Comcare
Comcare - Guide to incident notification Helps you decide whether you need to notify Comcare of an injury, illness or dangerous incident under the WHS Act
Page last updated: 10 May 2019