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Victorian workplaces urged to butt out smoking

Monday 18 March, 2002

Victorian workplaces are being encouraged to go smokefree following the launch of a new campaign today.

Health groups, unions, and industry have all backed the campaign, which includes a guide to help workplaces adopt smokefree policies, as well as radio and newspaper advertising to raise awareness amongst employers and workers.

The campaign has been developed jointly by The Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation, and has been endorsed by the Victorian Trades Hall Council, and the Australian Industry Group.

At the launch of the 'Going Smokefree' campaign today, Cancer Council Director Professor Robert Burton said passive smoking at work was a serious occupational health and safety concern.

'Passive smoking causes lung cancer in non-smokers,' Professor Burton said.

'Passive smoking is as much a workplace hazard as any other dangerous substance or equipment, capable of causing short term discomfort, serious illness or, in the event of long term exposure, even death.'

'Recent reviews of scientific evidence have estimated that non-smokers who suffer long term exposure to passive smoking have between 20%-30% higher risk of developing lung cancer.'

Executive Director of the Heart Foundation, Robyn Charlwood, said the most recent analysis of available research has found that passive smoking is associated with a 25% increase in the risk in coronary heart disease among non-smokers.

 We know passive smoking increases the risk of heart disease in non-smokers, and those risks increase the more someone is exposed.'

'Passive smoking is a significant public health issue, particularly when we consider that both exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and disease of the heart and blood vessels are common in our community.

'This means that even a small increase in risk related to passive smoking translates into a large number of additional cases of heat attack, stroke and premature death.

'Reducing passive smoking in our community has the potential to prevent a substantial number of coronary events – and of course one extremely effective way of doing this is to reduce exposure to tobacco smoke in the workplace.'

The new campaign was launched at Emerald Hill Timber Building Supplies, in Port Melbourne. Emerald Hill Timber Building Supplies co-owner, Rod Rabinov, says being smokefree is better for his business and his employees.

'Clearly, allowing smoking in a workplace like ours would be unthinkable because of the fire risk.'

'But to me, the issue is not just about the risk of fire damage to our equipment and buildings. As a business owner, I also want to look after my employees and create a work environment that helps them be a healthy, effective and productive team.'

'A healthy work environment means healthy employees. So in order to foster a healthy environment for employees and customers, we’ve made our business smokefree, and I’ve even encouraged my staff to quit smoking.'

'Not smoking is so well accepted in other venues like shopping centres and restaurants now, so we haven’t found being smokefree has caused any problems with our employees or customers, ' Mr Rabinov said.

A study conducted by The Cancer Council Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer found that nearly a third of Victoria’s indoor workers do not have comprehensive smoking bans at work.

While total smoking bans exist in 71% of Victorian workplaces, 21% of workplaces have only partial bans, and 8% of workplaces have no restrictions on smoking at all.

Hospitality workers, and indoor workers in workshops and factories and warehouses and stores were more likely to report there were no smoking restrictions where they worked.

-ends-

Further information:

Zoe Furman
Media Communications Manager
Quit Victoria

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