Risks from smoking workmates

Any exposure to passive smoking reduces lung function but sharing an office
with a smoker presents the greatest risk

Being exposed to colleagues smoking in the workplace can be more damaging to
lung function than exposure to passive smoking in the home or public places,
according to a study.

Research by doctors at Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in
Scotland found while exposure by non-smokers to passive smoking at home, in
public places and the workplace all reduced lung function, exposure at work had
the greatest effect.

The health records were examined of more than 300 men and women from Glasgow
who had never smoked and they were questioned about their exposure to
environmental tobacco smoke.

Passive smoking resulted in a serious reduction in lung function, with
passive smoking at work causing more damage, primarily because people generally
spent a longer period exposed.

The research was published in September’s edition of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine. "Passive smoking has been a public concern for a
while, because it is a major indoor pollutant.

"Our findings suggest that as well as its effects on the smoker,
smoking at work may contribute to deterioration of lung function in non-smoking
workmates," the study, led by Dr Ruoling Chen, senior lecturer in medical
statistics and epidemiology at the hospital, concluded. It showed the need for
strictly limiting smoking in shared areas, particularly in working
environments, he added.

The British Lung Foundation said it showed making workplaces smoke free
needed to be higher up the Government’s agenda.

After pressure from the pub and restaurant trade, the Government rejected
advice in the summer from the Health and Safety Commission for a code to force
employers either to ban smoking or take stringent measures to protect staff
from smoke.

– More companies are introducing non-smoking policies in their offices,
finds a survey by management consultants William M Mercer. The study of UK
private health plans and policies found 95 per cent of the 527 employers polled
prohibited smoking on company premises or restricted it to designated areas, and
58 per cent had introduced a policy in the past five years.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2001;58:563-568

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