STAFF members of a local council in London have been banned from smoking at their desk – even while they are working from their own home.
Hammersmith and Fulham council told staff who work from home any part of their house they use for working will “be required to be smoke-free”.
The move has been heavily criticised by campaigners who believe it is a “moral crusade” which “wages a war on choice and personal freedom”.
The directive was issued as part of a bi-borough health and safety guidance with Royal Kensington and Chelsea borough.
In February this year, however, Kensington and Chelsea nullified the ban on staff working from home when it dropped the directive.
The council’s rule on smoking is criticised in a report named “Smokefree Ideology – How local authorities are waging war on choice and personal freedom” which is sponsored by the pro-smoking group, Forest.
The report is set to be published tomorrow by the Manifesto Club.
The reports states that out of 147 of councils with a clear-cut approach on cigarette breaks, only 10 allowed staff members to smoke.
It says 88 councils restricted cigarette breaks, while 49 banned them altogether.
Smoking outside office buildings has also been banned by over 100 councils.
Staff of Islington council have been directed to move 50m away from its premises in order to smoke.
The author of the report, Josie Appleton said: “This isn’t about passive smoking risks – it’s a moral crusade.
“Smoking is being treated as a shameful activity that should never be seen in public spaces or near official buildings.”
She added that some councils have also put a stop to workers vaping, which makes it tougher for smokers to quit.
“It would be better if councils focused on providing public services, rather than interfering in the lifestyle choices of their employees and residents,” she said.
However, Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of Local Government Association’s Community Well-being Board countered by saying the move shows that the councils were being “responsible employers”.
He said: “Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death. Reducing smoking rates is the single biggest thing we can do to improve the nation’s health, as it will reduce cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions and cancer, meaning people can live longer in better health.
“As responsible employers and public health leaders, councils make no apology for leading by example and looking to protect the health of their employees and the wider public.”
Although the Labour run Hammersmith and Fulham declined to give a comment when approached by Telegraph, a source within the council said while the directive was still technically in place, it was due to be replaced.
According to the source, there has been no action taken against any member of staff for breaching the ban.