New Research on Worker Tobacco Use

An estimated one in five working U.S. adults uses some type of tobacco product according to new research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Of the estimated 32.7 million working adults who used tobacco, an estimated 6.9 million use two or more tobacco products “every day” or “some days.”

While cigarettes remain the most commonly used tobacco product, the use of multiple tobacco products has become common among current users of non-cigarette products. In order to document tobacco use among working adults, NIOSH researchers examined three years of data (2014-2016) from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

The results reveal the widespread use of tobacco. Among working adults (148 million), 15.4% used cigarettes, 5.8% used other combustible tobacco (such as cigars and hookahs), 3% used smokeless tobacco, and 3.6% used e-cigarettes. Additionally, an estimated 6.9 million workers (4.6%) currently use two or more of these tobacco products. Use of multiple tobacco products is associated with increased risk for nicotine addiction, dependence, and adverse health effects.

Additionally, 34.3% of workers in the construction industry and 37.2% of workers in installation, maintenance, and repair occupations were current tobacco users. Working adults who used tobacco products, according to the study, were also more likely to be young, male, those living below the federal poverty level, and have no health insurance. When it came to use of multiple tobacco products, the same socio-demographic characteristics held true.

The study indicates that among working adults, tobacco use varied by industry and occupation as well as by product type and selected worker characteristics, which reinforces the need to focus prevention efforts to prevent and reduce all forms of tobacco use in the workplace. Science-based interventions and policies, when implemented in the workplace, can effectively reduce and eliminate smoking and use of other tobacco products and encourage those who want to quit.

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking remains the largest cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. Tobacco use not only threatens employees’ health and well-being, but also results in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and increased workplace maintenance costs.

The CDC Foundation and CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health provides Tobacco Use: A threat to workplace health and productivity, which offers information to help employers learn how they can reduce tobacco use and increase the health and productivity of their workers. Research has shown that workers at worksites that adopted or maintained smoke-free policies were twice as likely to quit smoking as were those whose worksites did not implement such policies.