Report prompts new call for workplace smoking-cessation programs
Adult onset asthma, for example, is one health risk faced by employees who are exposed to tobacco smoke. Those especially susceptible are workers who are frequently around smokers, especially in the gaming and food service industries. In response, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is calling on employers to take further steps to protect their workers.
How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease is the 30th report from the surgeon general. It details the connection between smoking and cancer, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary problems, and reproductive and developmental effects.
"Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and is responsible for 443,000 deaths each year," the report says. "Thirty percent of all cancer deaths are due to tobacco."
In its more than 700 pages, the report draws the following conclusions:
- Even low levels of exposure, including exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, are dangerous. It validates the 2006 conclusions about secondhand smoke, saying low levels of exposure "lead to a rapid and sharp increase in endothelial dysfunction and inflammation, which are implicated in acute cardiovascular events and thrombosis."
- Damage from tobacco smoke is immediate. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, and occasional smoking are "sufficient to substantially increase the risk of adverse cardiac events."
- No level of exposure to tobacco smoke is safe. "The evidence on the mechanisms by which smoking causes disease indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke."
- There is no safe cigarette. There is insufficient evidence that attempts to reduce emissions of specific toxicants in tobacco smoke, such as new cigarette products, reduce the risk for major adverse health outcomes.
- Smoking longer means more damage. "The risk and severity of many adverse health outcomes caused by smoking are directly related to the duration and level of exposure to tobacco smoke."
- Cigarettes are designed for addiction. "Sustained use and long-term exposures to tobacco smoke are due to the powerfully addicting effects of tobacco products, which are mediated by diverse actions of nicotine and perhaps other compounds, at multiple types of nicotine receptors in the brain."
In November 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a new comprehensive control strategy for tobacco smoking reduction. The agency has set a goal of 2020 for all workplaces to be covered by indoor work site policies that prohibit smoking.
According to NIOSH, integrating employee health protection programs with wellness or other health promotion plans that can provide modern smoking cessation services "is a critical need." The agency further says that "tobacco-free workplaces, on-site tobacco cessation services, and comprehensive, employer-sponsored healthcare benefits that provide multiple quit attempts, have all been shown to increase tobacco treatment success."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
January 20, 2011
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