“Construction sites are full of inherent risks. Even the most safety conscious Laborers can often be in danger,” says the LHSFNA’s Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “But it’s not always the work that’s putting them at risk. Many times, it’s the fact that they smoke.”
As the American Cancer Society prepares for its 35th Great American Smokeout challenge on November 18th, smoking ranks as the leading cause of premature death in the United States. Of the more than 2.4 million deaths that occur annually, smoking is responsible for over 440,000.
Nicotine replacement products
Telephone smoking cessation hotlines
Prescription medicine to lessen cravings
Encouragement from friends and family members
The cigarette habit is particularly pervasive in the construction industry. About 37 percent of construction Laborers smoke – nearly four out of every ten have daily habits that exceed a pack a day – compared to 30 percent of all blue collar workers and 18 percent of white collar professionals. Laborers who smoke are at increased risk for cancers that include lung, larynx, esophagus, bladder, kidney, stomach and acute myeloid leukemia. And, this is further increased by toxicological synergy, exposure to hazardous construction site materials such as asbestos, silica and radon that interact with tobacco exposure and intensify the danger.
Laborers invite more than cancer when they light up. Thirty percent of all heart disease deaths are linked to smoking, and heart disease is a leading cause of death among Laborers.
Cigarette use is an expensive habit – depending on where purchased, a pack costs between $5.00 and $11.00 – and, even worse, endangering to non-smokers. Every year, approximately 50,000 Americans who have never smoked – non- smoker Laborers are in this group – lose their lives to lung cancer and heart disease as a result of inhaling secondhand smoke at the construction jobsite, in the workplace and at home.
The Great American Smokeout encourages smokers to make a plan to quit on that date. Mapping out what to do improves the odds of kicking the tobacco habit for good.
The LHSFNA’s new Laborers’ Guide to Tobacco offers suggestions and tips for quitting smoking. The guide, along with brochures and posters containing information about the hazards of tobacco, can be ordered by going to the LHSFNA’s website at www.lhsfna.org and clicking on Publications.
Borck acknowledges that “quitting smoking can be difficult” but, citing statics that indicate that non-smokers can outlive smokers by an average of 15 years, adds, “The rewards for giving up tobacco are substantial: improved health and finances and the time to enjoy both.”
Twenty minutes after quitting: Heart rate and blood pressure drops.
Twelve hours after quitting: Carbon monoxide level in blood returns to normal.
Two weeks to three months after quitting: Circulation improves. Lung function increases.
One to nine months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infection.
One year after quitting: Risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
Five to 15 years after quitting: Stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
Ten years after quitting: Lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker’s. Risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas also decrease.
Fifteen years after quitting: Coronary heart disease risk is the same as a non-smoker’s.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]