Ranked: Jobs With the Most (and Fewest) Smokers

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Miners, food service workers and construction workers are more likely to smoke than adults in other industries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday.

In an analysis of 2004-10 data from a national health survey, the CDC found that 30% of workers in mining and an equal proportion of workers in hotel and food services reported smoking. An estimated 29.7% of adults working in construction smoked.

The overall adult smoking rate in the U.S. is 19.3%.

“Targeted workplace tobacco control interventions have been effective in reducing smoking prevalence and exposure to secondhand smoke,” the CDC said, noting that smoking rates among working adults fell from 27.8% in 1987-94 to 24.5% in 1997-2004.

But declines have plateaued in recent years, far above the Healthy People 2010 target rate of adult smoking of 12% or lower, so the agency sought to parse current smoking data by industry and occupation.

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Other industries with high smoking rates included waste management (24.3%), real estate (23.4%), manufacturing (23.2%) and retail (23.1%). Industries with the lowest rate of smoking included education services (9.7%), business management (10.9%), finance and insurance (13.9%), and science and tech services (14%).

The data further showed that smoking rates were higher in younger workers, the less educated and the poor. An estimated 23.8% of 18-to-24-year-old adults smoked, along with 28.4% of those who never graduated from high school, and 27.7% of adults living below the federal poverty line.

The CDC recommends increasing implementation of and employee access to measures that have been shown to lower workplace smoking and reduce secondhand-smoke exposure:

  • Smoke-free workplace policies
  • Individual, group and phone-based quit-smoking counseling
  • Antismoking drugs
  • Tailored print or Web-based smoking cessation materials
  • Comprehensive insurance coverage for effective quit-smoking treatments

The CDC advises employers to ensure that all effective smoking-cessation treatments — counseling and drugs — is included as part of any basic health care plan that covers their employees. The 2010 health-care reform law requires new private health insurance plans to cover evidence-based quit-smoking treatments without cost-sharing, which should help more workers quit, the CDC said.

“Employers should educate all employees about the availability of these treatments and encourage their use,” the CDC said. “Providing coverage for tobacco dependence treatment will increase access to services, which will improve the health of employees and result in lower rates of absenteeism and lower utilization of health care resources.”

See the full CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and the full ranking of smoking rates by industry and specific job, here.

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