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The impact of workplace smoking bans: results from a national survey


OBJECTIVE To estimate the impact of workplace smoking restrictions on the prevalence and intensity of smoking among all indoor workers and various demographic and industry groups.

DESIGN Detailed cross sectional data on worker self reported characteristics, smoking histories, and workplace smoking policies were used in multivariate statistical models to examine whether workplace smoking policies reduce cigarette consumption. After analysing the distribution of policies, four main types of workplace programme were defined: (1) 100% smoke-free environments, (2) work area bans in which smoking is allowed in some common areas, (3) bans in some but not all work and common areas, and (4) minimal or no restrictions.

SETTING After environmental tobacco smoke was identified as a health hazard in the mid-1980s, workplace smoking restrictions became more prevalent. By 1993, nearly 82% of indoor workers faced some restriction on workplace smoking and 47% worked in 100% smoke-free environments.

PARTICIPANTS The database included a nationally representative sample from the tobacco use supplements to the September 1992, January 1993, and May 1993 Current Population Surveys of 97 882 indoor workers who were not self employed.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Prevalence of smoking and number of cigarettes smoked daily by smokers.

RESULTS Having a 100% smoke-free workplace reduced smoking prevalence by 6 percentage points and average daily consumption among smokers by 14% relative to workers subject to minimal or no restrictions. The impact of work area bans was lessened by allowing smoking in some common areas. Smoke-free policies reduced smoking for all demographic groups and in nearly all industries.

CONCLUSIONS Requiring all workplaces to be smoke free would reduce smoking prevalence by 10%. Workplace bans have their greatest impact on groups with the highest rates of smoking.

  • workplace
  • smoking ban
  • smoking restrictions

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  • We excluded 15 to 17 year old respondents because job turnover is high in this age group and the number of hours worked is relatively low—15.6 hours a week.

  • This final restriction eliminated proxy responses from our analysis. The CPS often relies heavily on proxy responses; however, for the tobacco use supplements an effort was made to reduce proxy responses. In the overall sample, before imposing the restrictions (a)–(f), roughly 18% of responses were by proxy.

  • * If we express the declines in smoking in relative terms, we find similar results for average daily consumption. The correlation coefficient between the relative decline in daily consumption and average daily consumption is 0.56 (p ⩽ 0.01). When we express declines in prevalence in response to smoking bans, the correlation between the decline in smoking and current prevalence is no longer statistically significant (p ⩽ 0.37).