The Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention AllianceFACT SHEET:
Secondhand Smoke & Workers

    • Workers exposed to secondhand smoke on the job are 34% more likely to get lung cancer.


    • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program’s 9th Report on Carcinogens, secondhand smoke is identified as a carcinogen.


    • There are laws protecting workers from many dangerous chemicals such as asbestos, pesticides, and radon. Many workers in Colorado however, are still not protected from the thousands of chemicals in secondhand smoke. Protection from this deadly substance is essential for workers. In fact, secondhand smoke causes more deaths each year than all of the regulated chemical work hazards combined.


    • Research shows that smoke-filled rooms have up to six times the air pollution of a busy highway.


    • Secondhand smoke increases worker deaths from lung cancer(4-8) and heart disease.(9-12)


    • Workplace exposure to secondhand smoke may be greater than exposure from living with a smoker. Restaurant workers are exposed to 1.5 times more smoke than smokers’ spouses and bar workers are exposed to up to 4.5 times the amount of secondhand smoke found in a smoker’s home.


    • Restaurant workers are the occupational group most heavily exposed to secondhand smoke. During a shift in a smoke-filled restaurant or bar, workers can breathe the equivalent of actively smoking 1 to 2 packs of cigarettes. This unhealthy air takes its toll on workers.


    • While smoke-free workplace ordinances have a positive impact on the health of non-smokers, smoke-free workplaces also make it easier for smokers to reduce or stop smoking. In addition, smoke-free workplaces have been shown to improve worker morale.



(1) Fontham, et al. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention,1991; 135: 35-43

(2) Environmental Health Information Service. “9th Report on Carcinogens,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program, 2000.

(3) Siegel, M. (1992). Smoking and Restaurants: A Guide for Policymakers UC Berkeley, CA.

(4) “Indoor Air Pollution, Tobacco Smoke, and Public Health”, J. L. Repace and A. H. Lowrey, Science 208: 464 (l980).

(5) Hackshaw, AK, Law, MR & Wald, NJ. (1997). The accumulated evidence on lung cancer and environmental tobacco smoke. BMJ. 315. 980-988.

(6) Massachusetts Department of Public Health. (1998). Keeping your loved ones smoke-free.

(7) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (U.S. EPA 1992). Respiratory health effects of passive smoking: lung cancer and other disorders. Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.

(8) Wells, AJ, (1998). Lung cancer from passive smoking at work. American Journal of Public Health. 88(7). 1025-1029

(9) California Environmental Protection Agency (1997). Health effects of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Final Report.

(10) Lam, TH, & He, Y. (1997). Passive smoking and coronary heart disease: a brief review. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology. 24. 993-980.

(11) Law, MR, Morris, JK, & Wald, NJ. (1997). Environmental tobacco smoke exposure and ischemic heart disease: and evaluation of the evidence. BMJ. 315. 973-980.

(12) Wells, AJ. (1998). Heart disease from passive smoking in the workplace. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 31 (1). 1-9.

(13) Seigel, M. (1993). Involuntary smoking in the restaurant workplace. A review of employee exposure and health effect. JAMA. 270. 490-493.

(14) Eisner, et al. (1998). Bartender’s respiratory health after establishment of smokefree bars and taverns. JAMA. 280. 1909-1914.