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Third of lung cancer patients worried about workplace secondhand smoke exposure

Roughly a third of working lung cancer patients are exposed to damage from secondhand smoke via their coworkers, a questionnaire by the Japan Lung Cancer Alliance has found.

The survey was carried out at the end of May this year online through patient associations that belong to the group, and there were a total of 215 respondents. Of the 123 patients who work, 39 people, or 32 percent, said they worked in an environment with secondhand smoke.

Under current laws against smoking in the workplace, it is only required for the employer to make an effort to create a smoke-free environment, and there were even patients who quit their jobs after their requests to ban smoking at work went unanswered. The results are to be presented at a meeting of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer in Yokohama on Oct. 16.

Ninety-two percent of the patients surveyed felt that secondhand smoke was "undesirable." Answers such as "it makes it difficult to breathe" and "I fear that my cancer will relapse or progress further (due to the smoke)" were also numerous.

A woman in her 40s with two children answered, "I started working part-time to cover the cost of my treatment, but because there were smokers at my workplace, I had to quit after only one day." There were other claims such as the lack of job opportunities in regional areas that forced patients to work in places where smoking bans have yet to become normalized. If these people try to be selective about where they work, then they will simply extend their period of unemployment.

In addition, there was also a patient who worked at a cafe who recalled, "When I thought of once again inhaling smoke in that small space, I quit." The respondent had consulted their superiors about the situation, but citing a drop in profits if the cafe prohibited smoking, the patient's requests went unanswered. Restaurants and other similar establishments ranked the highest among locations where patients were exposed to secondhand smoke at 87 percent.

"In order to change this situation, legislation regulating smoking indoors is a necessity," said Japan Lung Cancer Alliance leader Kazuo Hasegawa. "I would like the world to know about the situation we are facing in Japan."

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