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Foodservice Workers Face Secondhand Smoke Risk

WASHINGTON, DC - More than half of the nation's foodservice workers are at risk from exposure to job-related secondhand smoke, according to a study funded by the American Legacy Foundation.

In a ranking of 38 major occupations, foodservice workers ranked at the bottom of those workers protected by smoke-free workplace policies. White-collar workers, including teachers and healthcare workers, have the greatest protections from secondhand smoke on the job.

"Clearly, we have seen progress in protecting white-collar workers from secondhand smoke, but we've done a poor job of protecting blue-collar and service workers," said Dr. Healton, American Legacy Foundation president and ceo. "These same individuals are least likely to have access to quality healthcare and smoking cessation resources, so we're compounding the problem for this important segment of the workforce by having them work under conditions where they are not protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke."

Even among foodservice workers, considerable variation was seen in those with a smoke-free policy. Individuals whose job responsibilities involved direct interaction with customers reported significantly lower rates of smoke-free policies than those who were primarily involved in food preparation and cooking. Nearly 70 percent of kitchen workers had smoke-free policies, compared to 28 percent of waiters/waitresses and just 13 percent of bartenders.

This new study "Disparities in Smoke-free Workplace Policies Among Foodservice Workers," also found that when smoke-free policies are implemented, compliance is overwhelmingly not a problem. Among the nearly 70 percent of U.S. workers with smoke-free policies, only four percent reported a violation. Foodservice workers, however, reported somewhat higher rates of noncompliance than other workers, thus exposing more of these individuals to the hazards of job-related secondhand smoke.

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