Eliminating Tobacco Smoke in Workplace Priority for Occupational Physicians

Oct. 23, 2000
Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke should be eliminated from\r\nthe workplace through a combination of\r\nvoluntary, regulatory and legislative means, according to the\r\nACOEM.

Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke should be eliminated from public spaces, including the workplace, through a combination of voluntary, regulatory and legislative means, according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

ACOEM announced the publication of its position paper "Epidemiological Basis for an Occupational and Environmental Policy on Environmental Tobacco Smoke," which addresses the issue of reducing involuntary environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure to public places, include worksites.

"Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of death and disease in our society. Environmental tobacco smoke adds to the burden," said Dr. Alan Ducatman, chair of the Department of Community Medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morganstown, W.Va. "ETS exposure, with its growing list of known hazards, is preventable by engineering or policy means."

ACOEM calls for the elimination of ETS from the workplace, including public spaces such as bars, casinos, restaurants, schools, daycare centers and public transportation.

The College contends that ETS should be eliminated from the workplace because it is a significant cause of occupational death and illness.

ACOEM also encourages employers to provide employee training concerning the health hazards of ETS and voluntary personal smoking-cessation programs.

"The overwhelming scientific evidence that ETS is a danger to our nation''s workforce should be a clear signal to OSHA that regulatory action should be considered," said ACOEM President Dr. Robert Goldberg. "Workers are entitled to a healthy and safe workplace."

ETS causes measurable and significant exposure to nonsmokers in commercial buildings, residences and vehicles.

Studies show that nonsmokers in a workplace with smoking restricted only from the actual areas where work is performed were more likely to be exposed to ETS than those working at a completely smoke-free worksite.

In work settings lacking a policy prohibiting smoking in all areas, nonsmokers were more than eight times more likely to be exposed to ETS than those who worked in smoke-free worksites.

Studies cited in the ACOEM position paper show that the number of employees who stop smoking or reduce their rate of smoking is higher in worksites with smoking bans, especially where those bans are enforced.

Improved health and increased productivity have been well documented for both workers and employers, said ACOEM.

In addition, companies save money be limiting the risk of possible litigation based on claims of employer liability for occupational exposure to ETS, an area of case law that has been steadily growing since the 1970s.

For a copy of ACOEM''s ETS position paper log on to www.acoem.org/papguid/papers/etspaper.htm.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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