Tobacco in the Workplace

male hand holding a cigarette

Although the proportion of workers who smoke tobacco or who are exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace has declined over the past several decades, many workers remain susceptible to the harms of tobacco smoking.

The percentage of workers who smoke cigarettes varies by industry and occupation. The highest percentages of workers who smoke are in mining (30%), accommodation and food services (30%), and construction (29.7%) industries.1 Smokeless tobacco use is relatively frequent among workers in the mining (18.8%), wholesale trade (8.9%), and construction (7.9%) industries.2

The use of emerging tobacco products, including hookah and electronic vaping products (EVPs) or e-cigarettes, has increased in recent years. E-cigarettes were introduced in the United States in 2007 so little is known about long term health effects. In 2014, an estimated 5.5 million working adults were current e-cigarette users.3 Many states have laws to prohibit smoking and tobacco use in the workplace. As of June 2022, 17 states have passed laws that specifically prohibit e-cigarette use in the workplace.4 Employers can also enact policies that restrict smoking and tobacco use in the workplace. In a survey of employees in the United States, nearly half of respondents (48.4%) reported that their employer had a written policy addressing e-cigarette use and majority (73.5%) supported e-cigarette-free workplaces, including the majority of current e-cigarette users (53.5%).5 NIOSH provides recommendations and resources that protect workers from the hazards of using tobacco, that help employers prevent workplace exposures to secondhand smoke, and that promote the overall well-being of workers.

Tobacco policies and programs can serve as a starting point for keeping workers safe from the risks of tobacco.

The long-term health effects of e-cigarettes is unknown. Learn about possible risks.

Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive, and some products may contain cancer-causing chemicals.

The Surgeon General's most recent report on tobacco smoke and health provides the latest findings from 50 years ago to today.

Check out these pubs and resources for more on tobacco use and worker safety from NIOSH and other agencies and organizations.

References

Syamlal G, Mazurek J, Malarcher A [2012]. Current cigarette smoking prevalence among working adults – United States, 2004-2010. J Am Med Assoc; 306(10): 2086-2091.

Mazurek J, Syamlal G, King B, Castellan R [2014]. Smokeless tobacco use among working adults – United States, 2005-2010. MMWR; 62(22): 477-482.

Syamlal G, Jamal A, King B, Mazurek J [2016]. Electronic cigarette use among working adults – United States, 2014. MMWR; 65(22): 557-561.

Schillo BA, Diaz MC, Briggs J, Romberg AR, Rahman B, Liu M, Graham AL. Vaping in the Workplace: Awareness and Support for E-cigarette Workplace Policies.  Am J Health Behav. 2021 Mar 1;45(2):279-289.