Background In 2009, a health promotion initiative targeted the employees of the Italian Ministry Health aimed to promote compliance with the smoking ban and provide support for any smokers who wanted to quit, by providing free of charge tobacco cessation programme, available during working hours and in the workplace, for all smoking employees who agreed to participate in the programme. Activities included: an information seminar for employees on the risks of smoking; a questionnaire-based survey on the smoking habits of employees in the Ministry of Health headquarter; the launch of “Groups to quit smoking” run by personnel from the Italian anti-cancer league (LILT).
Results The programme is still ongoing but some results can be highlighted: The seminar held on February was attended by over 200 employees; all employees received an information booklet on the damage caused by smoking; the survey on the smoking habits of employees was completed. Out of the 1244 questionnaires distributed, 1030 were returned (participation rate 82.8%), analyses were carried out on 994 of them. Data showed that 25.1% of employees are smokers, smoking an average of 13.3 cigarettes a day; 43% of them are heavy smokers. Sixty-three percent of smoking employees claim they want to quit, but only 40% of them were advised to do so by their physician. Non-smokers account for 50.5% of employees, and former smokers 24.4%; second-hand smoke is a serious nuisance for 61% of them. Thirty-six percent of non-smokers is exposed to second-hand smoke in different places within the Ministry, including their own room and other rooms (in 2% and 6% of cases, respectively). Four tobacco cessation courses were launched in May 2009. A total of 74 employees (29% of smoking employees) signed up. Of these, 57 participated, and after having completed the course, 32 (56%) quit smoking and 25 (44%) smoked fewer cigarettes a day. Follow-up activities 6 months after the completion of the course are currently ongoing, and the rate of abstention from smoking is above 37%, in line with data reported in the literature. A new course has been launched in January 2010, 22 employees participated and at the end of the course 32% quit smoking.
Conclusions The program seems to work, law that bans smoking together with cessation program, free of charge and during working hours, are useful to protect non smokers from passive smoking and to help smokers to quit.
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