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Adult Smoking Rates Differ Among Occupations

Education, occupation, and socioeconomic status are major factors affecting cigarette smoking rates among working adults, according to a new CDC report.

Sept. 29, 2011 -- Education, occupation, and socioeconomic status are major factors affecting cigarette smoking rates among working adults, according to a new CDC report.

The CDC reports that the smoking rate of working adults is 19.6%, but that number jumps to 28.4% for those with less than a high school education, and to 28.6% for those who have no health insurance.

These rates are higher than Healthy People 2010 goals to reduce cigarette smoking rates among adults to 12% or less.

Also, the smoking rate for working adults who live under the federal poverty level is 27.7%.

Age also is a factor, with 23.8% of working adults aged 18 to 24 counted among the nation’s smokers.

Blue Collar Workers More Likely to Smoke

Researchers say “substantial differences” in smoking rates were detected in data for various industry and occupational groups, with blue collar workers being far more likely to be smokers than those in white collar ranks.

Smoking rates by industry for working adults ranged from 9.7% in education services to 30% in mining.

The researchers say that though progress has been made in reducing smoking rates among working adults, employers should take more steps to encourage employees not to smoke.

CDC researchers analyzed seven years of data from the National Health Interview Survey, collected between 2004-2010. The report estimates that 223 million adults were age 18 or older and that 63.3% were employed during the week before the interview.

Among the key findings:

  • Current cigarette smoking rates decreased with increasing age. About 24% of working adults 18-24 were smokers, compared to 10.2% of those 65 and older.
  • Smoking rates were highest among working males at 21.5%.
  • The smoking rate was 29.7% in those with construction industry jobs, compared to only 8.7% among workers in education, training and library occupations.
  • While the smoking rate for working adults with less than a high school diploma was 28.4%, it fell to 9.1% for workers with bachelor’s, master’s or higher degrees. The smoking rate for workers was highest in the Midwest at 21.7%, compared to 18.7% in the Northeast, 20.8% in the South, and 15.9% in the West.

Smoking Dangerous for Workers and Their Colleagues

Smoking in the workplace not only affects the smoker’s health, but also co-workers exposed to secondhand smoke.

The agency calls on employers to work with state and local health departments to reduce smoking rates among all workers. Recommended workplace interventions include:

  • 100% smoke-free workplace policies.
  • Comprehensive health insurance with little or no co-payment for cessation treatments.

The research is published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Sept. 30, 2011.

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