Smoke-free workplace policy needed in state

Published 9:57am Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June is National Employee Wellness Month. Alabama is one of 25 states without a comprehensive smoke-free policy protecting employees from secondhand smoke exposure. In 2010, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that even occasional exposure can lead to blood vessel damage, heart attack and stroke.

Hospitality workers are often exposed to SHS for 8 hours or more and yet only 28 percent of waiters and 13 percent of bartenders are protected by smoke-free policies. As a consequence, nonsmokers who work in restaurants are 50 percent more likely to develop lung cancer and up to 30 percent more at risk for heart disease than nonsmokers in the general public.

Tobacco-free worksites benefit both employers and employees by providing a healthier environment, reducing absenteeism, healthcare costs and cleaning for expenses for the employer. The Alabama Department of Public Health offers free help to businesses to implement their own smoke-free policy.

Currently in Alabama, 85 percent of the population is not protected from SHS in workplaces and public places. Separating smokers from nonsmoker, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposure.

Twenty-five U.S. States and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke-free workplace, restaurant and bar policies. All Alabama workers have the right to a clean, safe work environment, free from the harmful toxins in secondhand smoke. You can help protect Alabama workers by signing a petition in support of smoke-free workplaces at www.tobaccofreealabama.org.

Escambia County Children’s Policy Council

Coalition for a

Tobacco-free Alabama

Misty Kelly

CPC Coordinator, Brewton

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