While smoking is harmful for everyone, truck drivers face special challenges. Although the American national average for adults who smoke is 49%, truck drivers have averages hovering just under 70% for long haul truckers, according to Corporate Wellness Magazine. This is a major health crisis for truck drivers, and it is compounded by the fact that truckers often spend hours sitting behind the wheel and do not get much time for regular exercise. Add in truck stop dining and fast food on a sometimes daily basis, and you have a recipe for heart disease, lung cancer, and a drastically shortened lifespan. Considering 1 in 15 Americans are employed by a trucking company, it’s also considered a major national health crisis.
Why Truckers Smoke
Truck drivers may smoke for many of the same reasons others do. Some start long before their career path has been chosen and then find it difficult to quit, even though they may want to. A more common reason for truckers is that it is a highly stressful job, and smoking “takes the edge off.” Although some may not realize how high the stress levels may go for long haul truckers, being away from family for extended periods and the isolation of being in a truck all day for weeks at a time can take a toll on mental and physical wellbeing.
Health Effects of Smoking on Truck Drivers
The health effects of smoking are similar for everyone, although some may be more prone to illness than others. Truckers are at an increased risk of suffering from health issues because they are generally in an enclosed area. That means each time they take a puff, they not only inhale the smoke directly from the cigarette, but they are also exposed to their own second-hand smoke floating in the cab. Even with the windows open, there is virtually no way to prevent the cab from becoming filled with some level of second-hand smoke.
Additionally, residue and chemicals settle on the upholstery, clothing, and other porous surfaces where they are frequently disturbed. Each time these surfaces are disturbed, smoke residue reenters the air and decreases the air quality in the cab even further.
This process repeats itself each time a trucker lights up.
There are numerous problems with frequent inhalation of tobacco smoke, and the risk of lung cancer is only the beginning. While lung cancer is a major risk, smokers are also at a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, due to the constriction of blood vessels and lowered blood oxygen levels. Additionally, chronic lung diseases are common among smokers. These include emphysema and COPD, as well as less life threatening but incurable conditions like asthma, according to the CDC.
Risks for truckers may be even higher, and Corporate Wellness Magazine reports that 87% of truckers have hypertension or pre-hypertension, and they also have a 50% higher rate of diabetes than the general population. Both of these conditions are markers for increased cardiovascular disease risk.
However, hope is not lost. Not by a longshot.
What can be Done?
Quitting is the only way to drastically reduce or eliminate the risks associated with smoking. While this can be a challenge for some, smoking cessation aids can turn the tables very quickly in your favor. Nicotine gums and patches can be used effortlessly in order to combat cravings. They are easily attainable, and offer good results with a little will power.
Installing a cable-pulley system could also provide some form of physical activity while driving. Stopping at rest areas and doing basic exercises such as jumping jacks, pushups, or sit ups can also provide you with increased energy, stamina, and can strengthen your heart and lungs. Finding ways to exercise may be difficult, but you have to stop driving sometime.