Helsinki (20.11.2001 - Juhani Artto) Smoking restrictions at workplaces in Finland were voluntary until March 1995 when a reform to the Tobacco Control Act prohibited smoking in all common and public premises. The new legislation gives employers two options when implementing the Act: either impose a total ban on smoking or allow smoking in designated smoking rooms with separate ventilation systems and lower air pressure than non-smoking facilities.

A new study* indicates that in terms of reducing smoking and nicotine concentrations in indoor air the legislation has clearly achieved better results than the voluntary programme. This study was conducted at twelve medium-sized and large workplaces by investigators from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

The incidence of smoking decreased from 29.6 to 25.0 per cent and was significant for both men and women. There was more variation by education level. Although the incidence of smoking among elementary or complementary school leavers fell from 37.2 to 33.4 per cent and that of senior high or vocational school leavers from 32.9 to 25.3, college or university graduates reduced their smoking at work from 16.8 to only 16.0 per cent.

The average number of cigarettes consumed daily by smokers fell from 19 to 16. At industrial workplaces the median aerial nicotine concentration declined from 1.2 to 0.05 micrograms per cubic meter, while the corresponding fall in the service sector was from 1.5 to 0.2 and in offices from 0.4 to 0.1.

Legislation on smoking in restaurants and cafeterias was also tightened recently, resulting in a remarkable fall in exposure to environmental tobacco smoke at work for tens of thousands of employees in the catering industry.

*Heloma, Jaakkola, Kähkönen, Reijula: The Short-Term Impact of National Smoke-Free Workplace Legislation on Passive Smoking and Tobacco Use, American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 2001