Tobacco Use among Workers
A NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin (CIB) released in April summarized recent research on tobacco use among workers, exposure to secondhand smoke in workplaces, and the effects of workplace policies that restrict smoking and tobacco use. Smoking among adults in the U.S. has declined 50 percent since the publication, in 1964, of the first Surgeon General’s report on the health effects of smoking. But the habit persists, and smoking prevalence in certain industries, such as construction, is significantly higher than other industries. The use of smokeless tobacco is one way that workers who smoke maintain their tobacco habit in workplaces where smoking is prohibited. The NIOSH report also notes that many workplaces do not have policies that restrict smoking, and that millions of workers in these workplaces are still exposed to secondhand smoke. Information from the NIOSH CIB appears below.
Smoking and tobacco use in workplaces can profoundly increase the likelihood and severity of occupational disease or injury caused by other hazards. A toxic chemical present in the workplace might also be present in tobacco products; smokers, or workers exposed to secondhand smoke, would therefore have higher exposure to the chemical and be at greater risk for occupational disease associated with that chemical. Heat generated by smoking in the workplace can transform some workplace chemicals into more toxic chemicals. And by reducing lung function, smoking can leave workers more vulnerable to the effects of occupational exposure to dusts, gases, or fumes.