Protecting workers from secondhand smoke in North Carolina
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.