Passive smoking at work

According to the data available, the number of workers exposed is approximately
7.5 million across the European Union. The impact of this situation on their
health is worrying. Passive smoking involves an increased risk of lung cancer,
cardiovascular mortality and respiratory diseases. It also causes many problems
with reproductive health. The scientific literature associates it with sudden
infant death syndrome, various health problems in children, low birth weight,
etc. Certain sectors are particularly exposed, notably in the restaurant and
hotel industries.

The European Commission launched a consultation of trade unions and employers'
organisations on that issue. The European Trade Union Conference (ETUC) reply
supports a legislative initiative.

It is important to reaffirm the preventive approach pursued in occupational
health; it is the employers' responsibility to take the measures necessary to
create and maintain a working environment that poses no risk to health and
safety. Preventing the risks in this area should not jeopardize the privacy and
fundamental rights of workers. For the ETUC no denial of employment or
discrimination in employment relationships towards smoking workers namely in
the field of additional insurance schemes related to work, should be definitely

A specific directive for the workplace will allow the application of the
general principles of prevention in the framework directive to the concrete
risk posed by exposure to environmental tobacco smoke at the workplace. Its
starting point should be the elimination of that risk by means of
organisational measures banning smoking at the workplace. Specific arrangements
might be made in favour of workers who do smoke, provided that they guarantee
that no non-smoking workers are exposed. Complementary measures should be
provided, notably for the sake of allowing monitoring of the long-term health
of workers who have been exposed to this carcinogenic agent.

More information - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work