more likely to quit if workplace smoke-free, UC Berkeley study
Kathleen Scalise , Media Relations
-- Trying to quit smoking? Your best bet might be a smoke-free
workplace, according to a new study by researchers at the University
of California, Berkeley. They found smokers employed in locations
with strong anti-smoking workplace ordinances were 38 percent
more likely to quit over a six-month period than those in regions
with no such laws.
of the new study will be published in the May 2000 issue of
the American Journal of Public Health.
benefits of workplace smoking ordinances for non-smokers are
well known," said study co-author Joel Moskowitz, a director
of UC Berkeley's Center for Family and Community Health in the
School of Public Health. "This is the first time we've seen
such a big benefit for smokers also."
and co-researchers Zihua Lin of UC Berkeley and Esther Hudes
of UC San Francisco examined data from a statewide field survey
sponsored by the California Department of Health Services. It
was conducted in 1990, before California had a statewide workplace
smoking law and when job sites still were governed by local
communities with tough laws, 26.4 percent of smokers quit and
remained non-smokers within six months of the survey. In communities
with no workplace restrictions, only 19.1 percent of smokers
quit, the UC Berkeley team found.
effects were greatest in regions with the strongest rules. Such
rules included prohibiting smoking in restrooms, meeting rooms
and hallways; allowing employees to designate their work area
as smoke free; permitting nonsmokers' concerns to take precedence
in a conflict; and not exempting any businesses with four or
California's statewide law prohibits all indoor smoking at work
sites. It is the strongest anti-smoking legislation in the nation.
said the new findings make a great deal of sense from the standpoint
of what influences smokers to quit. For instance, what he calls
"the nuisance factor" associated with workplace restrictions
- having to seek an outdoor spot to smoke, timing smoking around
work breaks and so forth - probably motivates smokers to stop.
But he said perhaps even more important are two other factors:
the support of nonsmoking co-workers and the smoke-free air
itself, which decreases the biochemical and psychological cues
to light up in the first place.
can pretty much avoid the smoke if all venues you are living
in on a daily basis are mandated to be smoke-free," he said.
"Half of all cigarette smokers try to quit at least once every
year, and it's a lot easier to be successful if you are not
exposed to as much smoke."
smoke-free environment helped all populations studied, Moskowitz
said, and showed a positive effect regardless of race, gender
or ethnicity in communities throughout the state.
smokers in the study were only followed over a six-month period,
many may have relapsed since, Moskowitz acknowledged. But if
workplace ordinances could boost the "nonrecidivist rate" -
the rate of smokers who quit permanently - from the current
average of 4 percent a year to 5.5 percent or so, as preliminary
estimates suggest, "it would mean several hundred thousand people
nationwide who would successfully quit," he said.
workplace ordinances have been controversial nationwide, Moskowitz
said. Some employers are concerned about increased compliance
and enforcement burdens. Others believe that a positive effect
on the bottom line health of workers has not been proven sufficiently.
But California's experience suggests otherwise.
said the new results are quite promising for employers and show
for the first time that government intervention can help both
the nonsmoker and the smoker.
is telling us to adopt smoke-free laws," he said.
smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disability
in the United States, Moskowitz said. Each year, an estimated
420,000 smokers die from cigarette smoking, and 50,000 nonsmokers
die from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
to the California Healthcare Institute, a biomedical policy
group, 20 states restricted smoking to some extent in private
work sites as of Dec. 31, 1998.
For further information, contact Joel Moskowitz at (510) 643-7314.
Reporters who wish to receive a copy of the journal paper should
send email to email@example.com.
Others should contact the journal offices at (202) 777-2435.