(c) 2016 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Smoking: The under-estimated contributing factor

Smoking and occupational illness is a compounding factor in workers' compensation claims and that a study reports is also underestimated. A study funded by the American Cancer Society and published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week reveals.

"Mortality among current smokers is 2 to 3 times as high as that among persons who never smoked. Most of this excess mortality is believed to be explained by 21 common diseases that have been formally established as caused by cigarette smoking and are included in official estimates of smoking-attributable mortality in the United States. However, if smoking causes additional diseases, these official estimates may significantly underestimate the number of deaths attributable to smoking."

"During the follow-up period, there were 181,377 deaths, including 16,475 among current smokers. Overall, approximately 17% of the excess mortality among current smokers was due to associations with causes that are not currently established as attributable to smoking. These included associations between current smoking and deaths from renal failure (relative risk, 2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.7 to 2.3), intestinal ischemia (relative risk, 6.0; 95% CI, 4.5 to 8.1), hypertensive heart disease (relative risk, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.9 to 3.0), infections (relative risk, 2.3; 95% CI, 2.0 to 2.7), various respiratory diseases (relative risk, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.6 to 2.4), breast cancer (relative risk, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.2 to 1.5), and prostate cancer (relative risk, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.2 to 1.7). Among former smokers, the relative risk for each of these outcomes declined as the number of years since quitting increased."

Historically, occupational exposure to tobacco smoke has been recognized as a compensable condition. An Atlantic City NJ casino card dealer employed at the Claridge Hotel who was exposed to second hand tobacco smoke was awarded workers' compensation benefits. NJ Judge Cosmo Giovinazzi award $150,00 for lost wages and medical benefits to a card dealer holding that second-hand tobacco smoke materially contributed to the employee's lung cancer.

Smoking and Mortality — Beyond Established Causes
Brian D. Carter, M.P.H., Christian C. Abnet, Ph.D., Diane Feskanich, Sc.D., Neal D. Freedman, Ph.D., Patricia Hartge, Sc.D., Cora E. Lewis, M.D., Judith K. Ockene, Ph.D., Ross L. Prentice, Ph.D., Frank E. Speizer, M.D., Michael J. Thun, M.D., and Eric J. Jacobs, Ph.D.
N Engl J Med 2015; 372:631-640 February 12, 2015 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1407211

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.