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Non-smoking worksites in the residential construction sector: using an online forum to study perspectives and practices
  1. Susan J Bondy1,
  2. Kim L Bercovitz2
  1. 1University of Toronto, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2University of Toronto, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, and The Research Doctor Inc, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Susan Bondy, University of Toronto, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Sixth Floor, 155 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 3M7, Canada; sue.bondy{at}
  • Competing interests None.


Objectives Blue-collar workers are a recognised priority for tobacco control. Construction workers have very high smoking rates and are difficult to study and reach with interventions promoting smoke-free workplaces and cessation. The objectives of this study were to explore the smoking-related social climate in the North American residential construction sector and to identify potential barriers and facilitators to creating smokefree worksites.

Methods The data source used was a popular internet forum on home building. Participants included a broad and unselected population of employers, employees and freelance tradespersons working in residential construction. The forum archive contained 10 years of discourse on the subjects of smoking, workplace secondhand smoke and smoking restrictions on construction sites. Qualitative data analysis methods were used to describe major and minor discussion themes relevant to workplace smoking culture and policies in this sector.

Results Participants described considerable tension between smoking and non-smoking tradespersons, but there was also much interpersonal support for cessation and support for non-smokers' rights. Employers and employees described efforts to make construction sites smoke free, and a movement towards preferential hiring of non-smoking tradespersons was discussed. Board participants wanted detailed scientific evidence on secondhand smoke exposure levels and risk thresholds, particularly in open-air workplaces.

Conclusions Experience with success of smoking bans in other challenging workplaces can be applied to the construction sector. Potential movement of smokers out of the workforce represents a challenge for public health systems to ensure equitable access to cessation supports and services.

  • Passive smoking
  • tobacco smoke pollution
  • workplace
  • health promotion
  • qualitative research
  • internet
  • cessation
  • environmental tobacco smoke
  • qualitative study

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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  • Funding This research was supported by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, which receives funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Toronto Health Sciences Research Ethics Board (expressed waiver of requirement for full review on the grounds that the research involved only anonymised publicly available data).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.