Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. More than 480,000 deaths every year – or 1 of every 5 – are linked to cigarette smoking.
How Many Truck Drivers Smoke?
A 2006 study surveyed 11,986 people in the trucking industry. It found that smoking among long-haul truck drivers was 18%, and 8% among local delivery drivers. This is in comparison to about 20% of smokers among the general population during that same year.
Trucking companies, like most employers, are eager to get their drivers to quit. Smoking raises the cost of healthcare. This hits hard at the bottom line of companies who subsidize their workers’ health benefits. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for recruiters for major trucking companies to ask candidates if they smoke.
In addition, truck drivers are already at an elevated risk of certain health problems, such as obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. This is because of the largely sedentary nature of the job.
All of these health problems are aggravated by smoking.
At the government level, there aren’t many rules preventing truck drivers from smoking on the job. The only exceptions are restrictions on smoking in a truck while hauling HAZMAT material. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibits smoking within 25 feet of such a vehicle.
Take Caution While Quitting
Truck drivers who are looking to quit smoking must consider their cessation plan carefully.
In 2008, the FMCSA issued an advisory warning about truck drivers using the smoking-cessation drug Chantix.
“…It appears that medical examiners should not certify a driver taking Chantix because the medication may adversely affect the driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle,” the administration cautioned in a statement.
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But exactly what adverse effects was the FMCSA concerned about?
In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration issued a bulletin asking that Chantix carry a warning label. This was after reports that the medicine was causing severe changes in mood and behavior. Specifically, the FDA said Chantix may worsen a current psychiatric illness, or cause an old psychiatric illness to reoccur.
If a truck driver can’t quit cold turkey, could vaping offer some relief?
E-cigarettes are tobacco-less and emit only water vapor. The vaping industry touts them as being safer than cigarettes. They also allow users to “smoke” in facilities that bar tobacco smoking.
But some warehouses and loading docks still consider vaping “smoking,” and ban it on their premises.
A study in the journal Tobacco Control seems to support the idea that vaping is indeed safer. (Note: the journal does not accept papers from researchers affiliated with or funded by the tobacco industry).
According to the study, smokers who switch to e-cigs will live, on average, 5 to 10 years longer than those who continue to smoke cigarettes.
However, it is important to remember that e-cigs aren’t completely harmless. They do contain nicotine, which is addictive. And some vaporizers may still emit carcinogens.
There is some good news, though. Cigarette smoking declined from 21% of adults in 2005, to 15% of adults in 2015. Hopefully this trend continues both in the trucking industry and beyond.
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