Smoking and Truck Drivers: One Risk Too Many

Truck drivers have a stressful, challenging job and suffer from many health problems more often than the general population. This makes the link between smoking and truck drivers especially problematic, so helping them to quit should form part of a comprehensive strategy to help improve their health overall.

Truck drivers face a lot of challenges when it comes to their health. With a necessarily sedentary lifestyle, very few options when it comes to diet and a generally stressful job that keeps them away from home for extensive periods of time, it’s understandable that they will struggle to stay healthy. However, the link between smoking and truck drivers adds yet another entry to the growing list of truck drivers’ health issues. Although it might not be easy to quit, you should consider doing so to minimize your risk of health problems as a result of your job.

Smoking Rates Among Truck Drivers

Several pieces of research show that truck drivers are more likely to smoke than the average American. A CDC study looking at smoking rates by occupation found that those in the transportation and material moving industry – which includes but isn’t limited to truck drivers – had one of the highest smoking rates out of all occupations, at 28.7%. However, other evidence suggests that the issue of smoking among truck drivers is worse than this.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a survey specifically on long-haul truck drivers, and found that a massive 51% of long-haul truck drivers were smokers, in comparison to just 19% of the general population. This shows that the problem of smoking and truck drivers is a very serious one, more so than in most other professions.

Long Haul Truck Drivers’ Health Issues: How Smoking Adds to Existing Risks

Things only get worse when you consider other health issues faced by long-haul truck drivers. The NIOSH survey also showed that more than two-thirds of truck drivers were obese, and 17% were morbidly obese, compared to about a third and 7% of the general population, respectively.

Truck drivers were twice as likely to suffer from diabetes as the general population, and although they had slightly lower heart disease rates than the general population, 22% were either taking medicine for high cholesterol or had been told they had it. Over a quarter reported no moderate or vigorous exercise lasting over 30 minutes in the past week.

All of these factors increase the risk of several health conditions. In particular, both smoking and their lifestyle carry increased risks for cancer, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and several other conditions. The survey showed that over half of all surveyed truck drivers had two or more of the following risk factors for long-term preventable disease: obesity, smoking, little physical activity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or less than 6 hours sleep per night.

The picture painted by these statistics is not a good one. In fact, the evidence shows that health issues among truck drivers are likely to be very common, and many of the implicated conditions could actually disqualify drivers from receiving their commercial drivers’ license. Even without the health risks themselves, this should make improving your state of health a serious concern if you’re a truck driver. Breaking the link between smoking and truck drivers should be a priority.

Helping Truck Drivers Quit Smoking and Improve Their Lifestyle

Although there are many risks associated with a truck driver’s lifestyle, smoking is both very common in the group and one of the areas with most potential for improvement. Exercising when you’re confined to a small space during large portions of the day isn’t easy, and healthy eating at truck stops isn’t always possible, but you can stop smoking.

Like other smokers, truck drivers can quit smoking using several different approaches, including medicines, nicotine replacement therapies, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The latter three options may be particularly appealing to truck drivers, since you can continue to use nicotine, but the health risks will be drastically decreased. Quitting all nicotine use is the best option for your health, but if it isn’t possible (or you don’t want to), reducing your risks is the next best thing.

For the other health issues linked to truck driving, solving the problem isn’t so simple. However, making every effort to choose healthier options for food (with smaller portions and more fruit and vegetables), trying to find opportunities to exercise (even if it’s just at truck stops or roadside rest areas) and switching unhealthy sodas for water or low-sugar fruit juice can all make a difference. Although it may be difficult to exercise in particular, it’s very important to get as active as possible when you have a sedentary job.

So truck drivers face a lot of health issues in addition to smoking, and this puts them at high risk for a wide range of health issues, but it’s never too late to make a positive change.