by Mark Wheeler
Establishing a smoke-free workplace may help smokers light up fewer cigarettes or even quit the habit altogether, according to a recent study by City of Hope researchers.
City of Hope banned smoking on campus in 1989, and research findings on the campus employees’ attitudes toward the ban — published in the July issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Center Network — showed that virtually all who responded to the survey, including smokers, supported a smoke-free campus.
Researchers surveyed nearly 2,787 employees on the Duarte campus, and of the 1,356 who responded, smokers and now-former smokers reported puffing 2.4 fewer cigarettes on workdays than on days off.
More than 61 percent of respondents believed that the smoke-free campus reduced their cigarette consumption, and 42 percent quit smoking altogether while employed at City of Hope between 1989 and 2002, according to first author David Lin — at the time, a high school student in the City of Hope Summer Student Program — principal investigator Frederic W. Grannis, M.D., thoracic surgeon in the City of Hope Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program, and colleagues.
Nearly 93 percent of respondents supported City of Hope’s smoke-free policy.
The report dovetails a study released in late June by United States Surgeon General Richard Carmona detailing the dangers of secondhand smoke, which contains more than 50 chemicals known to cause cancer. That report stated that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent.
Nearly half of all nonsmoking Americans are still regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
“Only 14 states, California being one, have established a ban on smoking in public places,” said Grannis, who has long been an outspoken antismoking advocate. “I’m pleased that City of Hope is on the crest of the wave of public health policy with regard to preventing exposure of employees, patients and relatives.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. The City of Hope researchers estimated that secondhand smoke causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths and as many as 62,000 deaths from coronary heart disease each year.
Besides protecting patients and staff from the effects of secondhand smoke, a smoke-free campus encourages smoking cessation, according to the study. Of 173 employees who smoked at some time during their employment at City of Hope, 42 percent gave up smoking — and 41 percent of the quitters said working at a smoke-free campus helped them kick the habit.
“I’m very pleased this institution was wise enough to institute a smoke-free campus 17 years before the U.S. surgeon general’s report, and that our community overwhelmingly supports the ban,” he said. “We would hope this report proves useful to other organizations in assessing their own workplace smoking policies.”