Protection of non-smokers

a man breaks a cigarette

Source: © Janina Dierks - Fotolia

It is now common knowledge that smoking has an adverse effect on health. Known as "passive smoking", exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) also represents a health hazard to various parts of the human body including the respiratory tract and cardiovascular system.

Laws protecting non-smokers passed by the German Federal Government and federal states in order to guard against the dangers of passive smoking include bans on smoking in public buildings, cultural venues and public transport systems, as well as state-level bans on smoking in catering establishments. Since 2004 the German Ordinance on Workplaces has given employees a statutory right to smoke-free air in the workplace, with employers obliged to ensure that non-smoking employees are protected from passive smoke. State-level exceptions currently exist in the case of specific types of catering establishments.

The German social accident insurance institutions inform, support and guide companies on the implementation of measures for the protection of non-smokers. Set against a backdrop of changes to relevant legislation, the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) has defined its position in a document entitled "Theses for a Joint Prevention Strategy Protecting Employees against Passive Smoking in the Workplace". The theses therein were drawn up on the basis of a study of the activities carried out by and courses of action open to the German social accident insurance institutions for trade and industry in the field of non-smoker protection, which were discussed within the framework of a specialist event.

Activities carried out by the German social accident insurance institutions

Companies are provided with guidance on in-plant prevention by the corresponding occupational medical service and technical inspectorate.

The German social accident insurance institutions train employers and in-plant operatives in the field of health protection (here: addiction prevention), support companies during the drawing up of agreements between management and workers and organize informative events. Their work also sees them cooperate with health insurance institutions, whose workplace health promotion activities combine the protection of non-smokers with smoker dehabituation programmes.

The Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance (IPA) and Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA) have carried out research into markers with the aim of objectifying the effects of passive smoking in the catering trade. This involved the measurement of the internal and external exposure of catering trade employees to passive smoke. Measurements began with the parallel determination of the levels of nicotine and acrylonitrile in the air. A selection of results including air measurements and external exposure were published in the October 2009 edition of the "Gefahrstoffe - Reinhaltung der Luft" journal. Offprints of the article can be obtained free of charge by sending an


Dr Miriam Baron
Safety and Health Department
Health protection
Telefon: +49 30 13001-4502