Workers in support occupations in the healthcare and social assistance sector are significantly more likely to smoke cigarettes than are workers in all other occupations in that sector, according to a recent study by investigators at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). These findings indicate that smoking-cessation programs in healthcare and social assistance could reach more at-risk workers by specifically targeting certain jobs. This sector comprises ambulatory health care services; hospitals; nursing and residential care facilities; and social assistance.
One of the main objectives of the national Healthy People 2020 program is to reduce cigarette smoking in the general population to 12% or less. For this study, investigators analyzed 2008 to 2012 data from the National Health Interview Survey and found that 16% of the approximately 19 million workers in healthcare and social assistance reported current cigarette smoking. The jobs with the highest smoking rates were record keeping, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing, with slightly more than one-third of workers reporting that they currently smoke. The second highest rates were among workers in nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides occupations, with just over one-fourth reporting that they currently smoke.
Although the occurrence of smoking is higher among men than among women in the general U.S. working population, this study found that the occurrence was higher among women. This finding could stem from the disproportionately high number of women (80%) working in the health care and social assistance sector. In findings similar to those of other studies, smoking was also most prevalent among workers between the ages of 25 and 44 years, who earned less than $35,000 per year, and who had no health insurance.
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