Smoke-Free Workplaces Protect Non-Smokers And Encourage Smokers To Quit

Smoke-free workplaces not only protect non-smokers from the dangers of passive smoking, they also encourage smokers to quit or to reduce consumption, concludes a study in this week’s BMJ.

Researchers in California reviewed 26 studies on the effects of smoke-free workplaces. Totally smoke-free workplaces were associated with reductions in prevalence of smoking of nearly 4%. The combined effects of people stopping smoking and reducing consumption reduces total cigarette consumption by 29%.

To achieve similar results through taxation would require an increase in the price of cigarettes of 73%, say the authors. Such an increase would require cigarette taxes per pack to increase from $0.76 to $3.05 in the United States and from £3.44 to £6.59 in the United Kingdom.

If all workplaces became smoke-free, per capita cigarette consumption would drop by 4.5% in the United States and 7.6% in the United Kingdom, costing the tobacco industry $1.7 billion and £310 million annually in lost sales, they add. To achieve similar reductions, tax per pack would have to increase to $1.11 and £4.26.

While producing benefits for non-smokers by eliminating passive smoking, smoke-free workplaces also make it easier for smokers to reduce or stop smoking and substantially reduce tobacco industry sales, say the authors. This loss in revenues explains why the industry fights so hard against legislation to ensure that workplaces become smoke-free, they conclude.

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