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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that all employers establish and maintain smoke-free workplaces that protect employees from secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke and airborne emissions from e-cigarettes, and also provide tobacco cessation support for users.
NIOSH recommends that workplaces, at a minimum, should have smoke-free policies for all indoor areas, all areas immediately outside the building entrances and air intakes, and all work vehicles.
“Workers who use tobacco products, or who are employed in workplaces where smoking is allowed, are exposed to carcinogenic and other toxic components of tobacco and tobacco smoke,” said John Howard, director of NIOSH. “In addition to direct adverse effects of tobacco on the health of workers who use tobacco products or are exposed to secondhand smoke, tobacco products used in the workplace … can worsen the hazardous effects of other workplace exposures,” he said.
Workplace Exposure Declining
Since publication of the first Surgeon General’s Report on the health consequences of smoking in 1965, cigarette smoking in the United States has declined by more than 50 percent among all U.S. adults, to about 18 percent in 2013.
From 2004-11, cigarette smoking among workers varied widely by industry, ranging from about 10 percent in education services to more than 30 percent in construction, mining, and accommodation and food services. A recent survey of U.S. adults found that by 2013, approximately 30 percent of current smokers reported having used e-cigarettes. About 3 percent of workers reported using chewing tobacco and snuff, a rate that rose among construction workers (10 percent) and workers in the mining industry (20 percent).
The implementation of smoke-free policies has eliminated or substantially decreased exposure to secondhand smoke in many U.S. workplaces, according to NIOSH. “But millions of nonsmoking workers not covered by these policies are still exposed,” said Howard.
A 2009-10 survey found that 20.4 percent of nonsmoking U.S. workers experienced exposure to secondhand smoke at work at least one day a week. Another survey conducted at about the same time estimated that 10.4 percent of nonsmoking U.S. workers experienced exposure at work on at least two days per week.
The agency recommends that employers:
Workplace Tobacco Use Cessation Programs
Employees who want to quit their tobacco use can benefit from employer-provided resources and assistance, said Howard. Various levels and types of cessation support can be provided to workers, including providing onsite occupational health counseling, referrals to publicly funded state quitlines staffed by counselors trained specifically to help smokers quit, mobile phone texting interventions and web-based interventions. The most comprehensive workplace cessation programs incorporate tobacco cessation support into programs that address the overall safety, health and well-being of workers, said Howard. “A growing evidence base supports the enhanced effectiveness of workplace health promotion programs when they are combined with occupational health protection programs.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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