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