Compared to the U.S. population in general, about twice as many Laborers smoke. Four out of every ten Laborers are tobacco users, and two-thirds of these users smoke more than a pack a day.
“This is particularly dangerous for LIUNA members,” says LHSFNA Health Promotion Division Director Mary Jane MacArthur, “because of the strong synergy between tobacco and other chemical dangers such as asbestos, silica and benzene on construction worksites. When exposed to these hazards, smokers are up to 50 times more likely than non-smokers to develop lung and respiratory illnesses.”
Studies show that most Americans who smoke want to quit, but due to the addictive nature of nicotine, they usually face a stiff challenge. A survey of LIUNA members showed that 68 percent were thinking about quitting in the next six months and that 46 percent had tried unsuccessfully to quit in the last year. Fortunately, more attention is being paid to helping people break the habit (see Tools for Health sidebar).
Laborers and their family members who want to quit should call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. This confidential, toll-free, national number – established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – will refer you to a local counselor who can provide proactive advice to smokers who are ready to quit.
Also, smokers may want to participate in the annual Great American Smokeout, organized by the American Cancer Society. This year, it will be on November 16. By establishing a doable goal – 24 hours without using tobacco – on a definite date – the Smokeout mobilizes ten million participants in a mutual effort to break the habit.
The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division publishes a variety of brochures, booklets and posters that local unions and training centers can use to raise awareness and encourage smoking cessation. These are available through the Fund’s publications catalogue (click Publications).