Due to the decrease in physical activity associated with office work, smoking poses more of a health risk not only for the individuals who smoke, but also to those who work around them. Quitting smoking can have lasting benefits for the IT industry and workplace.
Although those who work in office settings generally smoke less than those who work more blue collar professions, smoking still presents unique challenges to professionals in IT and similar fields. Even if smoking is prohibited in the office, those who leave for “smoke breaks” often bring back smoke residue, or “third-hand smoke,” putting others in the office at risk. Additionally, those who work in sedentary professions may be at a higher risk for additional complications.
The Dangers of Smoking
Studies have shown that smoking causes a host of health complications. Lung cancer is the most well-known, but tobacco use is also linked with cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic lung conditions, and cancers of the bladder, liver, pancreas, throat, and mouth, according to the American Heart Association. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke is also linked to conditions such as asthma and allergies in children.
Aside from smoking related diseases, those who smoke age faster, become winded during exercise, and they may have a lessened athletic performance.
IT Professional Risk
While smoking causes similar health complications in all people, some are more prone to disease than others. This may be based on genetics, as well as additional risk factors. Those in the IT industry, particularly those who find themselves sitting behind a desk for most of their day, may be at a higher risk for developing certain diseases. For one, they often have stressful jobs, which could lead to them smoking more frequently. Those who sit at a desk all day also tend to have lessened cardiovascular conditioning. Sedentary individuals are already at a higher risk for disease, and smoking will only increase this risk.
There are ways to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other smoking related conditions.
Exercise: Many IT professionals work behind a desk, leaving little time for exercise during the work day. To keep the heart in optimum shape, it’s a good idea to get up and move around periodically throughout the day. Every hour or so, stand up and do some jumping jacks, or jog around the office. Give your body a good stretch. Go for a walk during lunch, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Any movement you can add to your day will help offset the risk of disease. Wear a pedometer and keep track of the number of steps you take each day. If you’re under 10,000, you could be doing better. If you’re under 5,000, your risk of disease is higher than it should be, and you should take immediate action to up your activity levels.
Diet: Aside from exercise, diet is the second biggest factor in disease risk for non-smokers. This makes it all the more important for smokers. Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, and some whole grains. Since smokers tend to be deficient in vitamin C, you might also consider supplementing any deficiencies.
Quitting: The only way to totally eliminate, or at least greatly reduce the risk of disease related to smoking, is to quit. While this may be a challenge, the health benefits are well worth the effort. If you need a little help, there are smoking cessation aids available to make the transition easier. These may include nicotine patches, nicotine gum, or electronic cigarettes, which use vapor instead of smoke to deliver nicotine.
In any case, requesting that your firm employs the use of smoking cessation aids, rather than providing smoking areas, will increase productivity and reduce the number of sick days for all employees – not only the ones who smoke. Third-hand smoke can reenter the air, leaving chemicals to spread to skin, hair, clothing, and surfaces. The risk for third-hand smoke exposure increases the risk for numerous illnesses to everyone in the office. Requesting that those who do smoke wash their hands and arms before returning to their work station will also decrease the risk of exposure to these chemicals.