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Tuesday, 22 August, 2000, 01:21 GMT 02:21 UK
Passive smoking 'hits workplace health'
Office workers exposed to smoke had more time off
Non-smokers exposed to tobacco smoke in the workplace take more sick days than those in smoke-free offices, researchers say.

It is well known that both smoking, and exposure to passive smoke brings a long-term health risk, but this is one of the first studies to show health problems caused by breathing other people's smoke even for a relatively short time.

It may fuel demands for stricter controls over workplace smoking.

We must take steps to protect, not only children, but also adults, from passive smoking

Report authors
A study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health looked at a large number of Hong Kong policemen, more than 5,000 of whom had never smoked.

Non-smoking men exposed to passive smoking at work for more than a year were twice as likely to take time off sick.

And they were 30% more likely to have required treatment for respiratory symptoms in the preceding 14 days than they colleagues working in a smoke-free environment.

The authors, from the University of Hong Kong, said: "In many countries, a high proportion of working environments are not yet smoke free, and non-smoking employees are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.

"In addition, many leisure environments are a regular source of exposure.

"We must take steps to protect, not only children, but also adults, from passive smoking, by ensuring effective bans on smoking in all workplaces and other sites where involuntary exposure occurs."

3m exposed to smoke

Clive Bates, a director of the anti-smoking pressure group Action on Smoking and Health, said that a Mori poll carried out in 1999 suggested that three million employees were exposed to passive smoke at work.

He said: "This study indicates that passive smoking is a real productivity drain on non-smokers."

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a universal ban on workplace smoking in the US would save the economy up to $72bn.

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11 Feb 00 | Health
Passive smoking risk 'overstated'
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