Report: Workers Experience Secondhand Smoke Exposure Despite Smoke-Free Laws

Published July 11, 2019

​Laws that prohibit smoking in workplaces appear to have little effect on the prevalence of secondhand smoke exposure in certain occupations, according to a new analysis published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Researchers from CDC and NIOSH analyzed data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, or NHIS. While workers in states with comprehensive smoke-free laws were least likely to report exposures to secondhand smoke, 8.6 percent of nonsmoking workers in states with such laws reported frequent secondhand smoke exposure at work. These workers are likely to be employed in industries where work occurs outdoors and in other settings beyond the reach of smoke-free laws.

NHIS data from all states show that 19.9 percent of nonsmoking workers reported exposure to secondhand smoke during the 12 months preceding the survey, and 10.1 percent reported the exposure was frequent (twice a week or more). More than 65 percent of workers in the machinery and equipment repair and maintenance industry reported exposure to secondhand smoke, the highest prevalence of any industry. The industry with the highest number of exposed workers—2.9 million—was the construction industry.

NHIS is conducted annually to produce nationally representative information on the health of the U.S. population. In 2015, CDC sponsored a supplement to NHIS to collect information on several work-related conditions and exposures, including secondhand smoke.