Cigarette smoking in the workplace may not be
the vile ogre or carcinogenic problem millions perceive it to be,
according to Jack E. Peterson, P.E., Ph.D., a certified industrial
hygienist who specializes in human toxicology.
Visiting about one state per month, Peterson has been on a
nationwide tour sponsored by the Tobacco Institute for the last 18
months. He visited Oklahoma with stops in Oklahoma City and Tulsa
Cigarette smoke is not the big problem in workplace air
pollution; the big problem is inadequate ventilation in buildings,
"Although many attribute poor air quality to tobacco smoke in
the air, investigations have demonstrated that in 96 to 98 percent
of the cases other problems were responsible," he said.
"In fact, since tobacco smoke is the most easily identified
indoor air factor that one can see or smell, it is often the first
signal that ventilation systems are not working properly and that
other problems need to be addressed."
Peterson's message on cigarette smoke, indoor air quality and
ventilation is intended to offset "negative publicity" about
cigarette smoke in the work environment, he said.
The Tobacco Institute is a non-profit organization funded by
some of the largest tobacco companies in the nation.
"Ordinarily, tobacco smoke is a symptom of not enough fresh
air," Peterson said. "Quite often, building owners will cut down the
amount of fresh air. This increases absenteeism. . .
"Cigarette smoke is blamed for most `sick building' problems
because people can see it and smell it, as opposed to other indoor
air problems like mold.
"The way you solve the cigarette smoke problem is to have enough
Instead of providing enough fresh air, however, many building
owners and operators seal in cigarette smoke and other noxious
substances, exacerbating poor air quality, Peterson said.
In designated non-smoking areas, "much more" fresh air should be
provided, he recommended.
Peterson is the owner of Peterson Associates in Brookfield,
Wisc., a former professor at Marquette University, author of a book
entitled "Industrial Health" and co-author of several dozen magazine
He has been an air quality consultant to a myriad of
organizations, including the U.S. Navy, Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA), Oscar Mayer, General Motors, and the
Ford and Chrysler companies.
According to Peterson, other indoor air pollution problems
troubling employees include ozone from photocopiers; sulfur dioxide
from heating systems; motor vehicle exhaust entering outside vents;
airborne contaminants from construction activity; fiberglass;
asbestos; chemical vapors; and bacteria, molds and fungi "growing
somewhere within buildings, usually in ventilation systems. …