Groups Recommend Smoke
Free Work Law
UPdate Summer 2001
groups concerned about the health risks of tobacco have asked the Nova
Scotia government to enact smoke free legislation covering all public places
and workplaces. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is considered the most
dangerous indoor air pollutant by Health Canada.
are asking the government to include protection from environmental tobacco
smoke, another term for second hand smoke, in occupational health and safety
legislation. "The health part of our health and safety legislation is missing,"
said Merv Ungerain, director of the province's Tobacco Control Unit, which
brought the groups together. "There are excellent draft Indoor Air Quality
Regulations waiting for approval," said Ungerain. "We believe this
is the best place to include restrictions on tobacco smoke." Ungerain sees
this as the most efficient route to achieving smoke free public places,
including bars, restaurants and malls.
health legislation works on the premise that employers have a responsibility
to protect employees from health hazards, and that employees do not have
a right to endanger others.
Workers' Compensation Board has placed exposure to tobacco smoke in this
context. In March, after a series of Public Hearings, they decided
"all employers must control workers' exposure to ETS." Only
designated safe outdoor areas and separate indoor rooms with ventilation
systems separate from the rest of the building, which workers must not
be required to enter except in emergencies, are allowable. Earlier
BC regulations regarding ETS were adopted in April 1998 and covered most
employees, but exempted those in bars, restaurants and correctional facilities.
At present, only 27% of Nova Scotia employees benefit from smoke free workplaces.
bars and other public places in Maine, Vermont and Boston are now all smoke
free. Newfoundland introduced its first smoke free legislation
in December 2000 aimed initially at restaurants.
that exposure to ETS increases the risk of cancer by 20-30% and heart disease
by 20-25%. A 1994 document from the US Environmental Protection Agency
noted, "A wide spectrum of health effects have been associated with exposure
to ETS. These effects include mucous membrane irritation, decrease in respiratory
system performance, adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, reproductive
effects, and cancer."
including the Medical Society of Nova Scotia, the N.S. Heart and Stroke
Foundation, the N.S. Cancer Society and the N.S. Lung Association worked
with the province's Tobacco Control Unit to develop the proposal, which
also includes strategies to reduce tobacco consumption.