Protecting workers from secondhand smoke in North Carolina

Chronic Disease and Injury, Division of Public Health, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, USA.
North Carolina medical journal 11/2004; 66(3):186-91.
Source: PubMed


Exposure to job-related secondhand smoke represents a significant, but entirely preventable occupational health risk to non-smoking workers. This article examines trends in smoke-free workplace policies in North Carolina. We also examine whether workers comply with such policies.
Data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey were analyzed from 1992 through 2002. Trends for North Carolina workers are compared with workers nationally and trends are presented by age, race, gender, and type of worker.
North Carolina ranks 35th in the proportion of its workforce reporting a smoke-free place of employment. The proportion of workers reporting such a policy doubled between 1992 and 2002. Females were more likely to reporta smoke-free work environment (72.0%, CI +/- 2.6) than males (61.2%, CI +/- 4.6%). Blue-collar (55.6%, CI +/- 5.5) and service workers (61.2%, CI +/- 8.4), especially males, were less likely to report a smoke-free worksite than white-collar workers (73.4%, CI +/- 2.6). Compliance with a smoke-free policy does not appear to be an issue, only 3.2% of workers statewide reported someone had violated their company's nonsmoking policy
While some progress has been made in North Carolina to protect workers from secondhand smoke, significant disparities exist. Smoke-free policies can make a significant difference in reducing exposure to airborne toxins and their associated diseases, and these protective public health policies have not been shown to reduce business revenues. Much has been done to assure the health and safety of workers through public health policy However, opportunities to protect North Carolina workers from the health effects of secondhand smoke are limited by a preemptive state law.

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    • "In the National Health Interview Survey that included > 290,000 U.S. civilians, the major blue-collar worker groups (e.g., construction labors, motor vehicle operators, freight handlers, assemblers, mechanics) had a large decrease in the annual smoking prevalence in the 1997–2004 survey period relative to the 1987–1994 survey period, but still had a higher smoking rate (> 30%) compared with all workers combined (24.5%) in the 1997–2004 period (Lee et al. 2007). In addition, blue-collar workers are less likely to report a smoke-free worksite than are whitecollar workers (Gerlach et al. 1997; Plescia et al. 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: Although the smoking rate in the United States is declining because of an increase of smoke-free laws, among blue-collar workers it remains higher than that among many other occupational groups. We evaluated the factors influencing workplace secondhand smoke (SHS) exposures in the U.S. unionized trucking industry. From 2003 through 2005, we measured workplace SHS exposure among 203 nonsmoking and 61 smoking workers in 25 trucking terminals. Workers in several job groups wore personal vapor-phase nicotine samplers on their lapels for two consecutive work shifts and completed a workplace SHS exposure questionnaire at the end of the personal sampling. Median nicotine level was 0.87 microg/m3 for nonsmokers and 5.96 microg/m3 for smokers. As expected, smokers experienced higher SHS exposure duration and intensity than did nonsmokers. For nonsmokers, multiple regression analyses indicated that self-reported exposure duration combined with intensity, lack of a smoking policy as reported by workers, having a nondriver job, and lower educational level were independently associated with elevated personal nicotine levels (model R2 = 0.52). Nondriver job and amount of active smoking were associated with elevated personal nicotine level in smokers, but self-reported exposure, lack of a smoking policy, and lower educational level were not. Despite movements toward smoke-free laws, this population of blue-collar workers was still exposed to workplace SHS as recently as 2005. The perceived (reported by the workers), rather than the official (reported by the terminal managers), smoking policy was associated with measured SHS exposure levels among the nonsmokers. Job duties and educational level might also be important predictors of workplace SHS exposure.
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