31 May - World No Tobacco Day 2012: EU-OSHA launches a ‘Smoke-Free Workplaces’ campaign

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This year the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) takes part in the World No Tobacco Day, launching its ‘Smoke-Free Workplaces’ awareness-raising campaign which calls on employers and workers to eliminate environmental tobacco smoke in workplaces all around Europe. It supports the pan-European campaign ‘Ex-smokers are unstoppable’ by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers.

In the European Union (EU), over half a million deaths per year are estimated to relate to smoking, about 79,000 of which are thought to relate to environmental tobacco smoke alone. Currently most EU countries already have in place smoke-free laws or a total ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, although their scope differs from country to country(1) . This means there are still premises where employees are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke.

EU-OSHA’s ‘Smoke-Free Workplaces’ campaign aims to support employers and employees in creating smoke-free workplaces, regardless of the existing national regulation in each Member State. Three leaflets in 24 languages, a video clip featuring the cartoon character Napo, “Lungs at work” and other information materials have been created to reach this goal (http://osha.europa.eu/en/topics/whp/index_html#tabs-1).

Launching the campaign, EU-OSHA sheds light on ‘false truths’ on smoking in the workplace. Contrary to popular belief there is no ventilation system capable of completely eliminating smoke, and indoor smoking areas always pollute the air of non-smoking rooms. Moreover, locating smoking areas around doorways, windows or vents of buildings often leads to environmental tobacco smoke exposure due to draft effect. EU-OSHA stresses that smoking rooms do not prevent the exposure of workers to smoke, because cleaning staff working in these premises breathe the polluted air.

The leaflet Advice for employers to create a healthy working environment gives practical tips to employers on how to implement smoking cessation in workplaces and basic information about the health and economic aspects of smoking at work. Workers will find advice in the leaflets Smoke-free workplaces for smokers and non-smokers. Both leaflets encourage workers to raise the issue internally and actively engage employers in solving the problem.

 (1)According to a recommendation of the Council of the European Union from 2009 all EU countries should implement respective laws to fully protect EU citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport by this year (2012). For instance it is only Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom that have introduced a total ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, with a ban in Bulgaria coming on 1st June 2012 (http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/law/free_environments/index_en.htm).

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