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Disparities in Job Risk From Tobacco Smoke, Recommendations Outlined in NIOSH Workshop Report

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
August 20, 2002

Employees in blue-collar and service occupations are at higher risk than other types of workers for exposure to tobacco smoke on the job, but new approaches to help workers quit smoking offer promise for reducing this risk, according to findings from a national workshop reported in a new publication by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Work, Smoking, and Health: A NIOSH Scientific Workshop, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-148, includes proceedings, findings, and recommendations from a workshop of research leaders from labor, industry, government, and academia, convened by NIOSH in June 2000. The workshop examined the current state of knowledge about the complex interrelationships between work, smoking, and health; identified research gaps; and suggested areas for needed health interventions and research.

According to research presented at the workshop and reported in the new document, blue-collar and service employees are more likely than others to be exposed to tobacco smoke on the job because:

  • They report that they smoke more and quit smoking less than other workers, even as overall national smoking rates and per capita tobacco consumption have declined.
  • They are less likely than others to work in establishments where smoke-free policies have been set.

Traditional smoking-cessation programs in the workplace have had only limited success. However, some studies suggest that better results may come from integrating smoking cessation and other health-promotion programs with occupational safety and health programs, the workshop reported.

More research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of such integrated programs, the report suggests. Also needed, it notes, are studies to evaluate the prevalence of smoking in relatively unstudied worker populations such as migrant workers and teen employees, to improve the understanding of how smoking interacts with other occupational exposures to pose adverse health risks, and to improve methods for evaluating adverse effects, among other gaps in existing knowledge.

The report is available on the NIOSH web page at Printed copies will be available shortly from the NIOSH toll-free information number at 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).