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Effects of Second Hand Smoke in the Workplace


With its new second-hand smoke regulations, the provincial cabinet has given “a cabinet decree to the tobacco and hospitality industries to allow more workplace cancer and deaths,” the Canadian Auto Workers and the Labour Environmental Alliance declared in a joint statement today.

“In what other industry would people tolerate a government permit to continue discharging 11 known carcinogens into the workplace? That’s what the government’s announcement today means,” said Mae Burrows, executive director of the Labour Environmental Alliance.

“The regulation won’t protect our members’ health and it certainly won’t protect their jobs when employersthreaten them with dismissal if they don’t ‘voluntarily’ serve in the smoking rooms,” said Frank Sobczak, president of CAW Local 3000. “The WCB has already been cut back in its enforcement capacity and it certainly isn’t going to be able to enforce workers’ right to refuse not to go into smoking rooms.”
The CAW represents some 8,000 workers in the hospitality industry, including those who work in bars and casinos where second hand smoke poses the greatest health risk. LEAS is a non-profit society that brings together workers and environmentalists on joint initiatives to protect workers’ health and the environment.
Both groups emphasized that the government should have upheld the original Workers’ Compensation Board ban on workplace second hand smoke since it would have created a level field for all hospitality businesses in the province and would not have compromised workers’ health.

They said the original WCB regulation would have been “better for the hospitality industry and definitely better for workers and the environment.” Burrows pointed to an exhaustive study completed in September 2001 that showed conclusively that a total ban on smoking does not reduce bar, restaurant and casino business and may actually increase business in the long run as the non-smokers who become new customers far outnumber the smokers who decide to stay home because of the ban.

That study, conducted by GPI Atlantic for the Nova Scotia Department of Health, examined sales tax data from across the continent to reach its conclusion. It also noted that claims of lost business were invariably unsubstantiated and were nearly always made by lobby groups fronting for the tobacco industry.
Burrows also pointed to that study and others, noting that exposure to second hand smoke results in a 20-30-fold increase in lung cancers and, alarmingly, a threefold increase in cervical cancer among young women — who make up much of the hospitality workforce. The GPI study emphasized that second hand smoke “is the leading cause of workplace death in Nova Scotia.”

“The provincial government took its instructions only from the hospitality and tobacco industries,” said CAW national representative Jef Keighley. “They didn’t consult with anyone else — not the Cancer Foundation., not the Heart and Stroke Foundation,. not the labour movement that represents the people whose health and lives this regulation will affect.”

For more information: Mae Burrows, LEAS 604-526-1956
Frank Sobczak, CAW 3000 604-526-3038
Jef Keighley, CAW B.C. 604-522-7911

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