Smoking and Factory Work: Why Workmen and Women Should Quit

Being a machinist, factory worker or having a similar job carries its own risks, and smoking makes these risks even more severe. However, large numbers of factory and production workers smoke, so helping them quit should be a priority for improving public health.

Smoking causes lung cancer, numerous breathing-related and lung problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, strokes and many more health problems. This is why smoking is a bad idea, regardless of your occupation. However, some jobs carry more risks than others, and for people in these professions, smoking is an especially bad idea. If you don’t have many options for what you do as a job, there isn’t much you can do about your work-related risk, but you can (and should) try to quit smoking as soon as you can.

Smoking and Factory Work: The Statistics

Smoking rates aren’t equally spread across different occupations: some types of worker are more likely to smoke than others, and some are less likely. A CDC study looking at data from 2004 to 2010 examined the smoking rates in different industries and occupational groups, and found that those working in production (which includes production workers, assemblers, metal and plastic workers, food processing workers and other similar job roles) had a higher smoking rate than the national average at the time. According to the study, 26.1% of people in production occupations were current smokers, compared to 19.3% in the general population at the time.

This is the fifth highest smoking rate out of all occupational categories, so the problem of smoking among factory workers is a fairly serious one. However, it’s important to remember that the occupational category is broad (also including food and textile workers, as long as they were in production), so it might not completely reflect the smoking rate in factory workers or machinists.

Why Do Factory Workers Smoke?

Ultimately, factory workers smoke for the same reasons most smokers do. In particular, many factory workers are low-paid, and often work long hours on shift schedules. All of these things contribute towards stress, which is closely related to smoking. Other factors such as noise, heat, dust and fume exposure can further contribute to this stress.

The result is a stressed worker, and studies have shown that this contributes to more smoking. In particular, people who put a lot of effort into their jobs with limited rewards are more likely to smoke, and people who experience a lot of job strain are likely to smoke more.

The explanation for this is that smoking offers a way of relieving stress. Taking a cigarette break means getting ten minutes away from the hectic workplace and having the dopamine-boosting hit of nicotine you get from smoking. However, this relief is short-lived, and doesn’t address the root cause of the stress. In other words, smoking provides some emotional relief, but the stress returns soon, whether as a result of the job itself or not having smoked in a couple of hours.

Additional Risks for Factory Workers Who Smoke

The serious and wide-ranging dangers of smoking are enough reason to avoid doing it, whatever your job, but for factory workers, it just adds to existing risks of the job. In many cases, factory workers are exposed to many different chemicals as part of their jobs, and may also inhale dust or other material that poses a risk to the lungs.

These risks are hard to avoid if you want to keep your job. Wearing proper protective clothing while at work will minimize the risks, but they can’t be avoided unless you can find a new job in a different field. So if you smoke as a factory worker, the unavoidable risks from your job are compounded by the avoidable risks associated with smoking. The risk of lung conditions from smoking, in particular, is especially concerning for people working in factories.

Smoking and Factory Work: Helping More Workers Quit

If you work in a factory, as a machinist or in other similar occupations, quitting smoking should be a priority. There are many different approaches you can use to try to kick the habit, ranging from nicotine patches and gums or alternative nicotine products like smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes right through to medications designed for quitting smoking like Chantix and Zyban. Any of these approaches are more effective than attempting to quit without support (“cold turkey”), and you’ll be even more likely to be successful if you combine it with counseling and some tips for stress reduction.

The most important thing is to realize that smoking is doing you harm, and even if you haven’t experienced serious consequences yet, there is a good chance it will take its toll in the future. Quitting definitely isn’t easy, but it’s worth it to protect your health and live a long, happy life.