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June 26, 2015

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The health benefits of work in smoking cessation

Steve Perkins, chief executive of BOHS, the Chartered Society for worker health protection, looks at new Scottish research on smoking cessation which highlights the remarkably positive role that work can play in worker health.

As occupational hygienists, we hear, all too often, about the negative health effects of poorly managed work. However, we should never lose sight of the very positive role that good work can, and indeed does, play in actually promoting health.

This principle was recently illustrated by new research published last month in The Annals of Occupational Hygiene.

Conducted by Dr Sean Semple of the Respiratory Group at the University of Aberdeen, the research examined the latest figures on smoking in Scotland, in the context of smokers’ economic status.

The results are striking – a massive 55 per cent of those who are unemployed and seeking a job in Scotland are smokers. In contrast, those who are of working age and engaged in employment or in higher education are about half as likely to smoke as those who are unemployed and seeking a job, or out of work as a result of ill health.

In his research paper, Dr Semple poses a critical question, asking, “Is it … possible that work actually has a positive, preventive impact on the risk of becoming a smoker?”

The paper makes clear that the factors driving the strong association between not being in work and being a smoker are complex, with poverty and social deprivation key factors.

Yet the statistics as they stand are fascinating: recent research conducted in the US on the impact of the 2008 economic recession concluded those in work became less likely to smoke than before the recession while those not working became more likely to smoke.

Dr Semple’s paper acknowledges the Scottish Government’s bold, world-leading programme set out to 2020, to tackle the harm caused by smoking.

And he is right to conclude that we, as occupational hygienists, are ideally placed to use our exposure control expertise – whether by measuring tobacco smoke aerosols or offering risk information and advice on behaviour change – to help policy makers and other stakeholders to effect change in this essential area.

Full commentary is available here.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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