BUILT - Union Yes Tobacco No

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BUILT- Building Trades Unions Ignite Less Tobacco

Summary Statement

A brochure discussing the impact of smoking on health, finances, families and retirement. Part of a collection. Click on the 'collection' button to access the other items.

Construction workers deserve the truth about tobacco. That’s why the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California started the BUILT project.

For decades, the tobacco industry has hidden the facts about the addictive nature of nicotine and the deadly effects of tobacco use. Our goal is to provide accurate information about tobacco to our members and their families— and help them quit if they choose to.

  • Tobacco use causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and impotence. When smokers quit, their lungs immediately begin to clean themselves and their health will return as long as no permanent damage has been done. Quitting may also stop or reverse other harmful effects. 1
  • Smoking and toxic chemicals on the job are a dangerous combination. Together, they increase the risk of disease. For example, smoking by itself increases the chance of lung cancer 11 times. Exposure to asbestos by itself increases the chance of lung cancer 5 times. But when you combine smoking and asbestos it increases the chance of lung cancer 50 times. 2
  • Cigarettes contain many common poisons, including some of the same chemicals found in rat poison, toilet bowl cleaner and embalming fluid. 3
  • Workers have a right to a hazard- free workplace, including protection from secondhand smoke. Made up of over 4,000 chemicals, secondhand smoke is considered a cancer- causing chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 4
  • Even though the tobacco industry covered up the facts for decades, we now know that nicotine is as addictive as cocaine or heroin. 5
  • Smoking is directly responsible for 87% of lung cancer cases. 6
  • Tobacco smoke damages your lungs so they can’t protect you from other hazardous substances you’re exposed to on the job. 7

Tobacco affects your retirement…and costs money

  • Tobacco use can shorten your retirement. Those hard- earned retirement years can’t be enjoyed if you are suffering from tobacco- related illnesses.
  • Tobacco affects all members’ retirement benefits. More money can go into wages and pensions if it doesn’t have to be used for health care costs for tobacco- related illness. When Health and Welfare funds have to pay large claims, this is a direct cost to every member who participates in the fund.
  • Heavy smokers can begin to get seriously ill in their fifties or even younger; this means that the union health and welfare funds have to foot the bill for their health care costs. Non- smokers are generally healthier until age 70, so their costs are “shifted” to Medicare.
  • Smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for one year costs more than $1,000.


BUILT is an educational program that provides a service to union members through:

  • Local Unions who can distribute educational materials to their members
  • Health and Welfare Trust Funds , who can provide information about tobacco and the benefits of quitting smoking to members and their families
  • Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees , who can include information about tobacco and toxic hazards in their health and safety training
  • Labor- Management Committees , who can develop voluntary worksite tobacco policies. BUILT can help your union
BUILT can help your union
  • By sharing BUILT resources with your membership, you’ll provide a valuable service to members and their families and strengthen the union’s commitment to protecting their lives.
    Contact BUILT for additional resources:

    • Speakers for union/ committee meetings
    • Literature/ information about the health effects of tobacco, secondhand smoke and the workplace smoking law

Chewing Tobacco

Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking. Chewing tobacco causes cancer of the mouth, larynx and esophagus. 8 Badly discolored teeth, receding gums, bad breath and chronic sores are common among users. Long- term snuff users are 50 times more likely to get cancer of the cheek and gum than non- users.

Chewing tobacco puts many harmful chemicals into your body, including arsenic, cyanide, lead and benzene. 9

Smokeless tobacco delivers more than twice the dose of nicotine than does cigarettes. It’s as hard to quit using smokeless tobacco as it is to quit smoking.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke hurts kids by causing respiratory problems. You don’t want to bring lead dust home and you don’t want to bring tobacco home, either. 10

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen — a substance known to cause cancer in humans. There is no safe level of exposure to Group A carcinogens which also include asbestos and benzene. 11

Secondhand smoke is the third- leading preventable cause of death in America, killing 53,000 nonsmokers each year. 12

Smoke from the tip of a cigarette has 20 times the carcinogens as the smoke inhaled by a smoker. 13

What's the Law?

California law prohibits smoking in indoor workplaces.‘ Indoor’ means 4 walls and a ceiling. It doesn’t matter whether there are windows, louvers or sliding doors that open.

Smoking is permitted in outdoor workplaces, unless an employer or a local ordinance bans it.

Employers may provide breakrooms for smokers, as long as they meet ventilation requirements and as long as they also provide non- smoking breakrooms.

Building Trades Workers

Building trades workers and their children smoke and chew tobacco at a higher rate than the general U. S. population. 14

General Population: 24%
Building Trades Workers: 39- 45% (depending on trade)

1, 2, 5, 6:
U. S. Surgeon General, 1964, 1985. 1988. 1967.
U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1989.
4, 7
NIOSH, 1991, 1979.
8. 9:
American Academy of Otolaryngology, 2000.
U. S. EPA, Office of Research and Development, December 1992.
Glantz, Stanton and Parmley, William W., “Passive Smoking and Heart Disease; Epidemiology, Physiology and Biochemistry,” 1991.
U. S. OSHA, “Secondhand Smoke: Is it a Hazard?” January 1995.
Nelson DE, Emont SL, Brackbill RM, Cameron LL, Peddicord J, Fiore M (1994), “Cigarette Smoking Prevalence by Occupation in the United States: A Comparison Between 1978 to 1980 and 1987 to 1990.” JOM 36( 5): 516- 525.

This material was made possible by funds from the Tobacco Tax Health Protection Act of 1988- Proposition 99, through the California Department of Health Services (contract #99- 85070)

California Smokers’ Helpline
Free and confidential telephone counseling for quitting.

When asked how you heard about the program, please credit BUILT, or give your union’s name and local number.

1- 800- NO- BUTTS
(1- 800- 662- 8887)

1- 800- 45- NO- FUME
(1- 800- 456- 6386)

Mandarin & Cantonese
1- 800- 400- 0866

1- 800- 778- 8440

1- 800- 556- 5564

1- 800- 933- 4TDD
(1- 800- 933- 4833)

Chewing Tobacco
1- 800- 844- CHEW
(1- 800- 844- 2439)