Clearing the air: the evolution of organized labor's role in tobacco control in the United States

Int J Health Serv. 2008;38(2):313-31. doi: 10.2190/HS.38.2.f.


As efforts to make U.S. worksites smoke-free took shape in the 1980s, the tobacco industry sought to defeat them by forming alliances with organized labor. The alliance between the tobacco industry and organized labor was based on framing the regulation of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) as a threat to jobs, an example of management unilateralism, and an issue that divided smoking and nonsmoking union members. The dynamics of organized labor and tobacco control began to change in the late 1980s with attempts to ban smoking on airlines and in the hospitality industry. Flight attendants, bar and restaurant workers, and casino dealers-all subject to ETS in their work environments-confronted ETS as an occupational health issue. Against the backdrop of increasing awareness of the hazards of ETS, and the acceptance of tobacco control policy, this framing changed the basis of organized labor's role in tobacco control. Because service workers share the workplace with the general public, their occupational health issues are also public health issues. This fact presents new opportunities for coalition building to protect the health of service workers and the public alike.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft
  • Humans
  • Labor Unions / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Labor Unions / organization & administration
  • Occupational Exposure / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Health
  • Restaurants
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution