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Another Reason to Quit Smoking

Great American Smokeout

Each year, the American Cancer Society promotes a national “quit smoking” day, this year on November 15. By making plans to quit with others on that date, you can prepare yourself and enlist the support of your family and friends.

The LHSFNA’s Laborers’ Guide to Tobacco and Quit Smoking Survival Kits offer suggestions and tips for breaking the tobacco habit. They can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue along with brochures and posters that contain additional information about the hazards of tobacco.

“There are many reasons to quit smoking – threats of lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease. And if these aren’t sufficient motivation for you to give up cigarettes,” says LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan, “how about an effect on health that is more immediate? Non-smokers heal faster.”

LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan

This benefit of quitting smoking should be of particular interest to anyone who works in the construction industry where hazardous tasks and risk of injury are higher than in other industries. According to data released by the American Public Health Association (APHA), nearly all construction workers will experience one or more work-related injuries or illnesses over their working lifetime. Construction workers may recover more quickly and claims costs may be reduced when smoking is not part of the equation.

How Smoking Affects Healing

Injuries that sideline Laborers such as sprains, strains, cuts, burns, bruises and broken bones require an influx of oxygen in order to heal. The body transports this essential ingredient to the injury site through blood flow.

Smoking impedes this process. Nicotine from inhaled smoke causes blood vessels to constrict. This limits the amount of blood being delivered to the injury. The problem is compounded by carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, components of cigarette smoke that deplete the amount of oxygen in the blood. The result is longer healing times, injuries that do not heal as well and increased likelihood of infection. These complications often translate to more time away from the job. They are also why smokers preparing for planned surgeries are often advised to stop using tobacco by their doctors for at least several weeks prior.

Lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease tend to be consequences of long-term smoking. As it can be years before these deadly diseases develop, smokers in the prime of life may not regard them as real threats to their health. Getting hurt on the job, however, particularly when one works in construction, is an immediate risk. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show that in 2010 there were 74,950 non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the construction industry that involved time away from work. Over a 45-year career, construction workers have a 75 percent or greater likelihood of incurring lost-time injuries. Whether or not they smoke can affect how well they recover.

“It is essential that every precaution be taken to stay safe and healthy on the job,” says O’Sullivan. “Quitting smoking is one more step in that direction.”

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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