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Although significant gains have been made in reducing overall smoking in the USA, 36% of craft workers and labourers and 32% of service workers continue to smoke, while the rate is down to 21% among white collar workers. As labour unions often represent blue collar workers, the Organized Labor and Tobacco Control Network (OLTCN) has been formed to reduce class based health disparities in the USA due to high levels of tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke among working people and their families.
OLTCN, a joint programme between the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, engages in a number of activities: from research on how unions can tailor smoking cessation programmes for their members, to consultation on how to create partnerships between the labour and tobacco control movements. In addition, OLTCN actively engages in educational and networking efforts to bring the two movements together. Initial funding has been provided by the American Legacy Foundation.
Specific activities of OLTCN include a pilot project with the eastern Massachusetts branch of the Ironworkers Union (AFL-CIO) that aims to develop and incorporate a smoking cessation programme for young workers in the union's apprenticeship programme. OLTCN is also preparing to conduct a series of interviews in the USA with key union and tobacco control leaders. OLTCN plans to publish the results of these interviews, as well as more in-depth case studies of specific union–tobacco control interaction, within the next year.