Employees in blue-collar and service occupations are at higher risk than other types of workers for exposure to tobacco smoke on the job, according to findings from a national workshop reported in a new publication from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). But the findings also reveal that new approaches to help workers quit smoking could help reduce this risk.

Work, Smoking, and Health: A NIOSH Scientific Workshop, reports on the results a workshop of research leaders from labor, industry, government and academia, convened by NIOSH in June 2000. The workshop examined the complex interrelationships between work, smoking and health; identified research gaps; and suggested areas for needed health interventions and research.

The research reveals two primary reasons why blue-collar and service employees are more likely than others to be exposed to tobacco smoke on the job:

  • They report that they smoke more and quit smoking less than other workers, even as overall national smoking rates and per capita tobacco consumption have declined.
  • They are less likely than others to work in establishments where smoke-free policies have been set.

Traditional smoking-cessation programs in the workplace have had only limited success. However, some studies suggest that better results may come from integrating smoking cessation and other health-promotion programs with occupational safety and health programs, the workshop reported.

More research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of such integrated programs, the report suggests. Also needed, it notes, are studies to evaluate the prevalence of smoking in relatively unstudied worker populations such as migrant workers and teen employees, to improve the understanding of how smoking interacts with other occupational exposures to pose adverse health risks, and to improve methods for evaluating adverse effects, among other gaps in existing knowledge.

The report is available at the NIOSH Web site at www.cdc.gov/niosh.