Smoking is responsible for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of all lung cancer cases. Toxicological synergy at the workplace aggravates the situation. For example, construction site exposures to cancer-causing materials and petrochemicals such as asbestos, silica, radon and welding fumes are even more likely to lead to lung cancer when Laborers are smokers…and four out of every ten Laborers are. They also tend to be heavy smokers, with pack-a-day-plus habits that also invite cancers of the larynx, mouth, esophagus, pharynx, bladder, pancreas, kidney, cervix, stomach and acute myeloid leukemia.

In addition, secondhand smoke (SHS) loads the air with cancer-causing agents that anyone nearby breathes in. Formaldehyde, cyanide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and nicotine are just some of the carcinogenic chemicals found in smoke rings and smoldering cigarettes. In the U.S. alone, SHS causes 3,400 nonsmokers to die from lung cancer every year and 46,000 more to lose their lives to heart disease. Four hundred thirty cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are annually attributed to SHS.

Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of many cancers and other diseases. The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Cancer Trends Progress Report finds that, ten years after putting out a last cigarette, an ex-smoker’s lung cancer risk decreases by nearly one half. However, every year, more than 40 percent of smokers attempt to break the cigarette habit and most fail. That can be a death sentence. Cancers related to cigarette smoking killed more than 171,000 Americans last year. Nearly half of all people who smoke will die because of their habit.

LIUNA is active in educating Laborers on the risks of smoking and in encouraging them to quit. Smoking cessation and tobacco awareness programs offered by the LHSFNA assist Laborers with quitting and also educate them about smoking’s health issues for both smokers and non-smokers. These programs and related brochures can be ordered through the LHSFNA’s Publications Catalogue or by calling 202-628-5465.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]