Tobacco use represents a key issue in workplace health, and much can be learned from countries where occupational smoking data has been regularly collected on a national basis. This article reviews national smoking surveys previously conducted in Australia and the United States between 1970 and 2005, and examines their relevance to the field of occupational tobacco control. When the first preliminary research was undertaken over 35 years ago, tobacco smoking was a regular feature in the general population of both countries, albeit with higher rates often documented among blue collar workers. Recent national investigations however, suggest that certain historical differences in smoking prevalence rates by occupation are persisting as we enter the 21st century. Detailed examination also indicates that employee sub-groups, such as cleaners and construction workers, are now bearing much of the occupational smoking burden in Australia and the United States. As such, there is an urgent need for more aggressive and finely targeted tobacco control activities in the workplace, as well as increased cooperation between tobacco control organizations, labor unions and other stakeholders, so that they may more effectively combat this ongoing threat to workers' health.