When smoking is combined with the many other airborne contaminants of an auto repair shop, mechanics are at risk for more serious lung and heart issues. Quitting smoking can have lasting health benefits for mechanics and car enthusiasts.
Smoking is dangerous for everyone. Studies have shown that the use of tobacco products leads to cardiovascular disease, stroke, lung cancer, and emphysema/COPD. It has also been linked to numerous other cancers and lung conditions in people of all ages. While everyone would do well to quit smoking, or better yet, never start in the first place, there are some who are at greater risk when lighting up. Automotive technicians or mechanics are among this high risk population.
The Dangers of Smoking for Mechanics
There are numerous reasons that smoking is particularly dangerous for mechanics. For one, second and third-hand smoke is an issue for not only the smoker, but also for those around them. According to the Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. When someone smokes, residue of the chemicals and smoke adhere to the skin, hair, and clothing. Mechanics often work in enclosed spaces, sometimes in close proximity with others. Smoke residue can easily reenter the air from a smoker’s clothing or hair. This negatively affects air quality. In an area where fumes and contaminants are already common place, further contamination is not a good thing.
Additionally, mechanics may already be at higher risk of lung cancer than those in most other occupations. According to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, mechanics are often exposed to asbestos while on the job. This is a deadly substance found in many building materials, but also in many car parts. Breathing of asbestos is one of the most common causes of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. Since smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer overall, those who smoke while working on automobiles compound their risk of developing cancer over time.
Why Mechanics Smoke
Mechanics smoke for the same reasons others do. Many began smoking as kids or adolescents and now find it difficult to stop. Others smoke out of habit, or because they are stressed out due to work or family pressures.
Whatever the initial reason for smoking, tobacco products are highly addictive. This makes quitting difficult for anyone, whether they are casual smokers or heavy users.
Preventing Health Complications
While smokers may find it hard to offset all health complications related to smoking, there are some things they can do to keep themselves and others safe on the job. Smokers should always refrain from smoking while on the job, as this will keep second and third-hand smoke from becoming an issue for others. If smoking is done while on the job, it should be kept to a designated area separate from other workers and customers. Hand washing at a minimum should be observed in order to keep third-hand smoke exposure low, even though this will not eliminate the risk altogether.
Special precautions should be taken to prevent or reduce asbestos exposure. Although the use of asbestos has been reduced in recent years to protect workers, it is still an issue in some cases – especially for restorations. Protective masks and other equipment should be used to prevent the inhalation of asbestos while on the job.
The only way to completely remove the risks of smoking, however, is to quit. While this can be challenging for those who are physically addicted, there are smoking cessation aids that can help make the process easier like nicotine patches or gums.
For more motivation to quit smoking once and for all, visit The Real Cost of Smoking.
Read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body at The Effects of Smoking.
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