Melbourne, Feb 3 (ANI): A ban on workers taking breaks for smoking has been met with anger by smokers, who feel they are being picked on.
The federal Department of Health and Ageing this week introduced a ban on employees taking regular smoking breaks and more bosses are expected to follow suit.
Many disgruntled smokers, including a 35-year-old city administration worker, who refused to be named, said the move was "discriminatory".
"Other people in the office stand around and have a chat whereas smokers go outside to have a cigarette," the Courier Mail quoted her as saying.
"It's not really fair, there's already restrictions on breaks as it is but not yet on whether you smoke or not," she said.
The federal Department of Health and Ageing said workers would only be permitted to smoke during designated meal breaks and not within 15m of the building.
The move is designed to improve the professional reputation of the department and improve employees' health.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties spokesman Terry O'Gorman said he was outraged by the ban, which he described as "an unjustified intrusion into worker privacy".
"It's simply unacceptably intruding into the private lives of individuals. It's a step that is thoroughly unjustified," he said.
He said he was concerned the change may result in other workplaces following suit.
But Action on Smoking and Health Australia spokesman Stafford Sanders said the country's three million smokers took about five 10-minute cigarette breaks a day, costing businesses millions of dollars.
"Smoking breaks are a productivity issue for employers," he said.
"Employers have to ask whether it doesn't generate more animosity to continue allowing paid breaks for one category of employee and not another.
"All the non-smokers are concerned that other people are getting breaks they are not entitled to," he stated.
But Queensland Chamber of Commerce president David Goodwin said that while banning cigarette breaks was difficult to do, employees should act responsibility when ducking out of the office for a smoke.
"I think employees should take personal responsibility for it and be team players," he said.
"You can't be going off having a cigarette when . . . things need to be done," he added.
In 2006, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources also introduced a ban on smoking breaks. (ANI)