Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

U.S. Urges Smoke-Free Workplaces

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Comment | More

ATLANTA—Whether it's smoldering tobacco or gurgling vape, the federal government wants it out of the workplace, even in smoking-intensive industries like construction.

A new scientific bulletin calls on U.S. employers to prohibit smoking and vaping in all workplaces and to offer tobacco-cessation programs to workers.

Beyond the well-documented case against tobacco, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workplaces shun Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes because they have not been well-studied, according to a Current Intelligence Bulletin issued April 2.

© / jh020548

NIOSH urges employers to ban all smoking, even of e-cigarettes, in the workplace.

The 102-page document, “Promoting Health and Preventing Disease and Injury Through Workplace Tobacco Policies,” is aimed at preventing occupational injury and illness related to tobacco use, while improving the general health and well-being of workers, according to NIOSH.

The new recommendations are built upon previous ones regarding tobacco use in the workplace; they incorporate public review and comment on an earlier draft document.

Tobacco Hazards

“This Current Intelligence Bulletin marks a half century since the first Surgeon General’s Report on the health consequences of smoking,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.  

That 1964 landmark report, “Smoking and Health,” released by Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry, was the first federal government report linking smoking and ill health, including lung cancer and heart disease.

According to the latest data, cigarette smoking causes about one of every five deaths in the U.S. each year, the Centers for Disease Control reports. Moreover, CDC indicates that smoking is estimated to cause:

  • More than 480,000 deaths annually;
  • 278,544 deaths annually among men; and
  • 201,773 deaths annually among women.
construction project
pacman5 / Wikimedia Commons

Tobacco use varies among industries. More than 30 percent of construction workers smoke.

All of the figures include deaths from secondhand smoke.

A variety of cancers as well as respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic and other diseases are associated with tobacco use, according to the CDC.

Workplace Recommendations

“While cigarette smoking in the U.S. has declined more than 50 percent among all U.S. adults [since the first Surgeon General’s Report], about 20 percent of all U.S. workers still smoke, and far too many nonsmoking workers are still exposed to secondhand smoke at work,” according to  Howard.

In the construction industry, for instance, smoking prevalence among workers exceeds 30 percent, the bulletin says. For construction trades helpers, that number jumps to 49.5 percent.

As a result, NIOSH recommends that, at a minimum, employers establish and maintain smoke-free workplaces that protect workers from involuntary, secondhand exposures to tobacco smoke and airborne emissions from e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems.


NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations to prevent worker injury and illness.

The agency says smoke-free zones should encompass:

  • All indoor areas without exceptions (i.e., even smoking areas that are separately enclosed and/or ventilated);
  • All areas immediately outside building entrances and air intakes; and
  • All work vehicles.

Additionally, NIOSH urges all employers to assure compliance with OSHA and MSHA regulations that prohibit or otherwise restrict smoking, smoking materials, and/or use of other tobacco products in designated hazardous work areas.

Ideally, all tobacco use would be prohibited throughout the entire workplace, according to NIOSH.

This is the first NIOSH guidance to include recommendations regarding e-cigarettes. Because of the limited data available on the safety of exposure to e-cigarette emissions, the institute recommends including these products in indoor smoking bans.

About one in three current U.S. adult smokers reports having used e-cigarettes, NIOSH reports.

Support Programs

NIOSH also recommends that employers help current smokers quit  by offering tobacco-cessation support programs and providing information on publicly available programs.

ConstructionWorkerSmoking / coolmilo

NIOSH wants employers not only to ban smoking on the job, but to help workers kick the habit altogether.

The bulletin says employers should provide all workers, including volunteers and contractors, with tobacco-related health risk information.

Further, employers should provide workers with information regarding employer-provided and publically available tobacco-cessation support services, NIOSH adds.

To increase participation by lower-wage workers, the employer should provide these services at no cost or subsidized, according to the report.

Where feasible, these programs should be made available and promoted to workers’ dependents as well, NIOSH says.

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations to prevent worker injury and illness.


Tagged categories: Business matters; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NIOSH; North America; Worker training; Workers

Comment from Jeremi Day, (4/15/2015, 2:26 AM)

Land of the "FREE"

Comment from Jeremi Day, (4/15/2015, 2:41 AM)

My apologies... Let me clarify. Yes... Smoking is bad. It stinks and it will kill you. What I want to see is JUST ONE CASE where a NON-SMOKER died, developed cancer, got admitted into the hospital, or even went to the emergency room because someone smoked in the same vicinity???.... Hmm.. Yeah, that's what I thought. If I or anyone else wants to poison themselves, why is it the government's business? .............. ““We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.”” Ayn Rand

Comment from Sarah Berry, (4/15/2015, 5:23 AM)

Not a US case or the same industry, but Roy Castle (UK TV presenter and non-smoker) died of lung cancer from passive smoking for years.

Comment from Gail Alario, (4/15/2015, 7:16 AM)

More government intrusion. When will enough be enough!

Comment from Mark Anater, (4/15/2015, 1:48 PM)

How ironic that you quote Ayn Rand in denying OSHA the right to regulate on the job smoking, Jeremi. She developed lung cancer, and denied to her dying day that her smoking habit had anything to do with it. Despite her objectivist philosophy, she had a rather fuzzy idea of truth.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (4/15/2015, 3:07 PM)

I do not smoke so should not care, right? WRONG! I care whenever I see the government use some phony excuse to govern our lives and force their will upon us. People ignored the Nazi's when they went for the Jews because it did not affect them. I see the same situation here. Our government is ready to go after someone just because that person is not doing what they like. Yes, I surely do see the similarity. They attempt to reduce gun ownership by things like "gun free zones", which are nothing but a target rich environment, at least that is what our military would call it. As for smoking, non-smokers may not like the smell, but I have never ever seen any honest research that shows people are physically affected by someone else's smoke. Let's back off this crazyness before the government is totally running our lives and we have no freedoms left.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/16/2015, 8:22 AM)

Jim and Jeremi - Well over 100 nonsmokers are directly killed by cigarettes, etc every year in the USA alone. These are direct deaths of nonsmokers caused 100% directly by smokers. How? Fires. That's the REDUCED number of deaths after the self-extinguishing cigarettes became widespread. Used to be much higher. It's ridiculous to support casually lighting fires in the workplace for nothing more than personal recreation. It's worse than refusing to wear fall protection, because you're more likely to kill someone else, not just yourself.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (4/16/2015, 10:29 AM)

Tom, fires are a concern but that is not a smoking issue but a fire control issue. Of all the fires here in the US one can only wonder just what percentage are caused by smoking. But blaming smoking itself for those fires is like blaming the gasoline in your car for the auto accident. If you had no gasoline you would not have an accident, therefore all accidents are attributable to gasoline?

Comment from James Albertoni, (4/16/2015, 11:02 AM)

You guys do realize that smoke can cause asthma attacks right? Just because someone doesn't go to the hospital or die doesn't mean it doesn't affect others. In that case, I could go around with a knife and just start cutting people, just small cuts of course, so no one goes to the hospital or dies, but I like to do it so it's okay. The recommendations aren't a whole lot different than California's public laws.

Comment from Mark Anater, (4/16/2015, 3:39 PM)

As usual any talk of regulation brings out the right wing talking points, often invoking false Nazi analogies, paranoid gun seizure fantasies, and nothing about the real threats like corporate overreach and Internet spying. These same defenders of liberty will scream when smokers' health issues cause insurance premiums to go up, and scream even louder if Medicare has to pay the bills. Discouraging smoking, not making it illegal, is a social good.

Comment from Jeremi Day, (4/17/2015, 1:20 AM)

Mark... I never said OSHA didn't have the right to REGULATE smoking. Why not adopt the idea that we are free to choose and make reparations? Separate smoking areas with air filtering works just fine everywhere else. As far as her lung cancer.... Why is that anyone's business but hers? Tom, I couldn't have given a better response to your input that Jim gave. My only point here is why is this anyone's business? If I want to smoke, give me a smoking area and leave me alone. Don't tell me I live in a free country and then regulate my decisions.

Comment from Jeremi Day, (4/17/2015, 1:31 AM)

Mr. Albertoni... Didn't you recently comment on the Hard Hat exemption story?? Hmm.. Sounds to me like people are just fine with making changes for a rule that's been in place for quite a while. Far longer than the smoking regulations that are in place. So why not make a smoking section or area that keeps the non-smokers safe? Oh... that's right.. Freedom of choice isn't as important as freedom of religion. Although, somehow I can't find anywhere that addresses the difference between the two.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/17/2015, 8:36 AM)

Jim and Jeremi - y'all demanded examples of nonsmokers killed because someone smoked in the vicinity. I gave it to you a hundred times over (every year.) I more than met your challenge, yet you don't seem willing to change your position. If they weren't smoking in the building, nobody would have died (over 300 smokers are killed every year the same way btw, and it used to be worse with old style cigarettes) - without even getting into the "secondhand smoke" ....smokescreen - I have demonstrated how smokers are killing nonsmokers purely by their smoking. Your car analogy is wrong. It's like blaming the smokers for irresponsibly driving and running people over with their cars, not "blaming the gasoline." It's not using the workplace (car) in the standard manner. You added risk. You drove (smoked) irresponsibly and a non-driver (nonsmoker) got killed by your actions. You added to their risk, and bystanders died. Case closed. Heck, I didn't even get into car accidents caused by smokers choosing to literally play with fire while driving. I see smokers doing this all the time. If you want to set small fires a couple dozen times a day for recreation, I don't see why you should be increasing my risk of death by doing it in the same building I work in. If you want a special area for your personal fire-setting recreation - are you going to set up a shooting range for me at work so that I can go pop off a few rounds a couple dozen times a day at work? That's a better recreational activity for me.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (4/17/2015, 9:54 AM)

Tom, I did not ask for an example, perhaps someone else did. Your statement just does not pass muster. The cigarette is not the problem, the individual is. As for deaths, several hundred people die DAILY on the nations highways and I do not see any ultra regulation/management of the people. One also has to remember this is not a perfect world and we cannot stop every death through regulation. One also cannot please all the people all the time, and shamefully, the loudest whiner is usually the one who gets satisfaction, not the most worthy. By the way, I have no objection to you target shooting on break as long as you have a relatively safe place to do it. Note I said "relatively" because nothing is 100% safe. This is not a safe world we live in and I seriously doubt it ever will be. One cannot regulate perfection!

Comment from Mary Chollet, (4/17/2015, 10:17 AM)

Ladies and gentlemen, kindly direct your comments to the topic and not at each other. Lengthy or personal rants and attacks will be deactivated, per our posting policy. Thank you.

Comment from James Albertoni, (4/17/2015, 10:18 AM)

Jeremi, I was meaning to only comment on your hospital analogy. I agree that smoking areas that keep non-smokers safe are a good idea. As far as the hard-hat exemption...I was just pointing out that everyone was ticked off at OSHA when it was MSHA that was doing the over reaching. Most importantly...when can I expect the target range, dance studio, and bowling alley in my office? I'll pass on the martial arts studio.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (4/17/2015, 11:07 AM)

Folks, I have nothing against someone wanting to light up in a designated smoking area. I personally don't want to be exposed to the carcinogenic material being released by the cigarette and smoking. Considering the types of chemicals (for a list, see the report of the Surgeon General at: and how they linger on the clothes of smokers (you can smell that last smoke for quite some time, from my experience), I'd prefer a smoke-free workplace and it appears that is what NIOSH would prefer too. example for you... my uncle was a non-smoker all his life, but worked around smokers most of his career. He is not a heavy drinker (though enjoyed an occasional social drink), never had GERD or heartburn issues and does not have Barrett's Esophagus. He was diagnosed esophageal cancer last year and is still fighting it. Based on his medical history, the cancer was indicated to be the result of exposure to second hand smoke.

Comment from Jeremi Day, (4/20/2015, 6:11 AM)

Seriously, guys???....... just wow!I personally think OSHA should come and take all of your keyboards....

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/20/2015, 8:47 AM)

Jim, I apologize. Jeremi was the workplace smoking advocate who wanted a single example of nonsmoker deaths caused by smokers and I provided 100 per year. I agree that driving is a much bigger risk than smoking, but it's also a much more critical component of our economy, unlike smoking. I definitely want road safety dramatically improved - the biggest hope I have is for automated driving. Do note that I will be protesting even more vigorously if someone wants to drive their car inside my office than if they want to smoke.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (4/20/2015, 10:38 AM)

Tom, a lot of my ire is from government wanting to regulate every single facet of a persons life, but just as often they are only adamant on a few chosen issues. Far more people die from obesity than ever died from smoking, but nothing is done about that. Why are we not regulating those who plug up their own arteries? Because that was never the intention of the US Constitution and due to so many such people it would be greatly unpopular. The federal government was formed to protect our borders, mint our money and fight our wars. If they had followed the enumerated powers they were given, the federal government would do little more than that. But, politicians are gluttons for power and ego and money, so they continuously grow government and it seems no one can stop them. In reality government was never intended to keep people from disrupting each other. The Commerce Clause was intended to regulate tariffs between the states, not to regulate our air or water or whole milk from some local dairy farm. As regards this story, I do not believe the government has the right to stop smoking completely, though they can regulate it to some degree.

Comment from David Lemke, (4/21/2015, 4:27 AM)

I didn’t realize I worked in a prison. In prison you can’t leave and work somewhere else. I thought this was the land of the free and if I didn’t like the policies or working conditions, I could quit and work somewhere else. There are very, very few companies that allow smoking inside the work place. Do we really need Big Brother to tell us one more thing we can and cannot do?

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/21/2015, 8:26 AM)

Jim, this article actually isn't about regulation - the document referenced is a suggestion for workplace practices, not a mandate.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/22/2015, 8:25 AM)

To me, dead is dead. I think it is quite reasonable to include all methods of smokers inadvertently killing nonsmokers in the discussion.

Comment from Ken Tator, (4/22/2015, 10:18 AM)

I’ve very much in enjoyed this lively commentary on smoking (or regulations permitting lack of smoking) in the workplace. The issue has been elevated to governmental regulation of individual rights, which of course is a very relevant and timely subject in all areas of our lives. Even today, the US Supreme Court is hearing an argument regarding the rights of same-sex couples to marry! I do however believe that in some areas, notably public health and safety, that the government does have the right to restrict bad or poor practices. Examples would be the required wearing of hardhats and safety equipment in dangerous worksites, fastening seatbelts in automobiles, and in my opinion, ultimately eliminating, or reducing cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are the only product when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations will kill you. There is significant and substantial information available regarding this. However, there are also a lot of addicted smokers who would like to stop, and know that smoking is not good, but have great personal difficulty in doing so. I have thought for a number of years that a fair and nondiscriminatory way to eliminate or minimize smoking would be to have the government pass legislation prohibiting a minor of a certain age to purchase and/or smoke a cigarette. Let’s say that age would be 5 years old. Few, if any 5 year old kids smoke cigarettes. A provision of the legislation would then in the following year increase the age to 6 years old, and in subsequent years, increase the smoking prohibition to 7, then 8, then 9 year olds, etc. There would be a hefty fine to the parents for any violations. Hopefully, between parental and government enforcement, there would be a smoke free environment in a generation or two, and no second-hand smoke. In the interim, requiring present smokers to imbibe their habit away from non-smokers outside of buildings, or in designated smoking areas seems to work well from what I have seen at numerous worksites, (and at KTA) and should be continued. Ken

Comment from Car F., (4/22/2015, 11:28 AM)

Your “freedom” to kill yourself by smoking should respect my freedom and desire to live longer by not inhaling your second hand smoke. Yes, most definitely, smoking in the workplace should be considered a health hazard and eliminated. Most civilized countries do not permit smoking in public places, perhaps is time to join civilization.

Comment from P S, (5/4/2015, 3:51 PM)

I may be late to this conversation but have you all forgotten that much of the anti workplace smoking regulations are based upon nonsmoking airline steward/esses who contacted second hand smoke related illnesses and filed a class action suit over 25 years ago?

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

HoldTight Solutions Inc.

Tarps manufacturing, Inc.


Modern Safety Techniques

Strand’s Industrial Coatings

Sauereisen, Inc.

REMA Corrosion Control

Paint BidTracker


Technology Publishing Co., 1501 Reedsdale Street, Suite 2008, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL

The Technology Publishing Network

PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy Policy   |   Terms & Conditions   |   Support   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us