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500,000 Wisconsin Residents Exposed to Secondhand Smoke at Work

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MADISON - One in five Wisconsin workers is employed in workplaces that still allow smoking, according to a report issued today by the Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center. More than one-half million (660,000) employees are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke in their workplaces, often at hazardous levels.
Smoking Allowed, an analysis of Wisconsin and U.S. data, notes that though the percent of adults exposed to smoke in workplaces declined from 33 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2007, it is still an unhealthy condition of employment for many workers and in some industries.

"These employees may be exposed to dangerous levels of tobacco smoke for up to eight hours per day. We know that this exposure can cause long-term and serious health effects," said Dr. Patrick Remington of the UW Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Cancer Center researchers found significant disparities exist in exposure to secondhand smoke in workplaces:
  • High school graduates are twice as likely to be exposed as college graduates
  • Men are 50 percent more likely to be exposed to smoke as women
  • Black and Hispanic workers are twice as likely to be exposed as white workers
Researchers also found small differences in employees' exposure by region. Employees in northern Wisconsin were more likely to be exposed (27 percent) compared with those in southern Wisconsin (20 percent). There was no significant difference in reported exposure between U.S. and Wisconsin employees.
Analysis of state employment data indicated that despite the attention to the impact of a state smoke-free workplace law on tavern and restaurant employees, only one in five of the exposed employees work in that industry.
"We estimate that over 80 percent of the employees exposed to secondhand smoke are working in manufacturing, retail and wholesale businesses and transportation. While tavern and restaurant employees would benefit from a smoke free workplace law, most of the changes would benefit those working in other industries," said Dr. Remington.

The report data were from the Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a state-based random telephone survey conducted in over 5,000 households every year.

Date Published: 04/30/2009

News tag(s):  cancersmoking

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