Uniformly Protecting U.S. Workers from the Health Risks of Second-Hand Smoke Exposure

  • Kara Danielle Majkut Ryan
Keywords: second-hand smoke, workers, health risks, indoor smoking bans, United States, environmental tobacco smoke, ETS, public health legislation, Washington, DC, workplace


A preponderance of evidence conclusively demonstrates the severe health risk posed by secondhand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). While this evidence has led to the passage of indoor smoking bans in office buildings and many other indoor public places, in many states, workers in the hospitality industry still face toxic second-hand smoke every time they go to work. This article argues that policymakers must develop comprehensive smoke-free legislation for all indoor public spaces, including all indoor workplaces. Contrary to the arguments put forth by restaurant and tobacco industry interest groups, indoor smoking bans significantly diminish public health risks, provide equitable protection for all workers, increase healthcare and productivity savings, and have minimal, if any, negative economic impact on businesses and overall tax revenues. Washington D.C.'s experience illustrates how policymakers can pass this vital public health legislation despite procedural roadblocks and interest group politics.

Author Biography

Kara Danielle Majkut Ryan
Kara Danielle Majkut Ryan is a second-year graduate student in public policy at the George Washington University in Washington, D. C. Interested in housing and poverty issues, Kara is concentrating in urban studies. Ms. Ryan currently works as a research assistant at the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington, D.C., where she studies complex nonprofit organizations and their role in state and federal elections. She graduated with honors in 2001 from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, with a B.A. in political science.