Research Article: Illegal Passive Smoking at Work

Date Published: March 31, 2011

Publisher: SAGE-Hindawi Access to Research

Author(s): François-Xavier Lesage, Frédéric Deschamps, Denisa Jurca.


Introduction. Exposure to passive smoking at work has been forbidden for few years in France. This study’s aim is to estimate the prevalence of passive smoking at work (PSW), the characteristics of illegal passive smoking and to identify eventual respiratory effects.
Methods. Occupational practitioners (OPs) of a French county of 320,000 wage earners were contacted by mail. Then OP answered questions from a standardized questionnaire. These questions concerned the practised job, exposure features linked to PSW and health effects in relationship with second-hand smoke in workplace, and the focus on nonsmoker encountered by OP during the most recent occupational medical examination.
Results. Ninety-five percent of a total group of 172 OP of Champagne county filled the postal questionnaire. More than 80% of OP’s replies identified illegal PSW. The average prevalence of PSW exposure was 0.7% of the total working population. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) levels were considered between low and medium for most passive smokers (71%). Main features exposure to ETS at work for non-smokers was associated with female gender (69.5%), age between 40 and 49 years (41.2%) and belonging to tertiary sector (75.6%). Environmental tobacco smoke exposures at work was firstly in the office for 49.7% of the subjects and secondly in the restroom for 18% of them. Main medical symptoms encountered by non-smokers were respiratory tractus irritation (81.7%). Eighty-three percent of OPs indicated solution to eradicate PSW. Illegal PSW is really weaker than fifteen years ago. However, the findings support a real ban on smoking in the workplace in order to protect all workers.

Partial Text

In Europe, fifteen years ago, around 22 million workers are exposed to group 1 of carcinogens [1].

Occupational health departments were selected from the area of Champagne county defined by administrative boundaries with a working wage earners population of at least 320,000 individuals. The target population that was defined has employees working in establishments or job sites in the Champagne county (1.3 million inhabitants) employing one or more workers. All commercial and industrial sectors and branches were concerned.

A total of 163 OPs answered to the questionnaire, representing about 95% (163/172) of those contacted for the study. More than 80% (131/163) of OP respondant identified, among non-smoking workers entrusted to them, (around 3000 workers by OP) cases of PSW.

The present study was carried out in order to assess the prevalence and the typology of illegal PSW. The main discovery in this investigation on non-smokers adults was that reported PSW was low, but also a reality despite the ban.

PSW was common fifteen years ago, and even if worldwide, the ETS is currently common [27], the ETS exposure at work is now quite low. However, roughly 2000 workers are yet currently illegally exposed in our county.