Medical Reading

Smokers smoke less in workplaces that ban smoking

May 07, 2017

Banning smoking in the workplace does not only protect non-smokers from the effects of passive smoking. Employees in workplaces with no smoking restrictions smoke almost five more cigarettes daily than those whose workplaces completely ban smoking, says a study by the University of Toronto's Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU).

"Usually, the reason given for banning smoking in the workplace is to benefit non-smokers and this is a valid and important reason," says OTRU's Dr. Thomas Stephens. "What this study shows is that the bans also have health benefits for smokers themselves.

"A lot of people assume smokers in smoke-free workplaces compensate for being without cigarettes while at work by smoking more at lunch, during breaks or after work but overall they don't. People are more likely to cut down or to give up cigarettes."

Using data from Statistics Canada's comprehensive 2001 Canadian Community Health Survey, the study determined that 24 per cent of employed adult Canadians are daily smokers who consume an average of 17 cigarettes daily.

In workplaces where smoking is banned, 18 per cent of workers smoke daily and their average consumption drops to 15.4 cigarettes per day. By contrast, when there are no bans, 40 per cent of workers are daily smokers and average 20.1 cigarettes daily.

The OTRU study results, presented recently at the International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, apply to adults between the ages of 20 and 64, regardless of age, sex, occupation, education or income. The results were not affected by work stress, depression or attempts to quit smoking within the past 12 months.

Stephens says the data (otru) have particular impact because they apply to "workers in all kinds of occupations and conditions and it's recent data that's Canadian."

In Canada, two provinces (Manitoba and New Brunswick) and two territories (Northwest Territories and Nunavut) have recently introduced comprehensive legislation banning smoking in all indoor enclosed workplaces. In Ontario, smoking in the workplace is restricted to a lesser extent by the Smoking in the Workplace Act, the Tobacco Control Act and a variety of municipal bylaws. The Ontario government has promised to introduce provincewide legislation restricting smoking in public workplaces and public places.

The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU) is a unit of U of T's Department of Public Health Sciences. It was established in 1993 with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health to foster and conduct research, monitoring and evaluation contributing to programs and policies to eliminate tobacco-related health problems in Ontario. The Unit's co-sponsors include the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo and the University of Ottawa.

CONTACT:
Dr. Thomas Stephens
Ontario Tobacco Research Unit
613-692-6092
University of Toronto

Elaine Smith
U of T Public Affairs
416-978-5949
elaine.smithutoronto