Open Access Research article

A cross-sectional study of secondhand smoke exposure and respiratory symptoms in non-current smokers in the U.S. trucking industry: SHS exposure and respiratory symptoms

Francine Laden123*, Yueh-Hsiu Chiu1, Eric Garshick34, S Katharine Hammond5 and Jaime E Hart13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

3 Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

4 Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Section, Medical Service, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA, USA

5 Environmental Health Sciences Division, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:93  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-93

Published: 1 February 2013



Previous studies have suggested associations of adult exposures to secondhand smoke (SHS) with respiratory symptoms, but no study has focused on blue-collar industrial environments. We assessed the association between SHS and respiratory symptoms in 1,562 non-current smoking U.S. trucking industry workers.


Information on SHS exposure and respiratory health was obtained by questionnaire. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to assess the associations of recent and lifetime exposures to SHS with chronic phlegm, chronic cough, and any wheeze, defined by American Thoracic Society criteria.


In analyses adjusted for age, gender, race, childhood SHS exposure, former smoking, pack-years of smoking and years since quitting, body mass index, job title, region of the country, and urban residence, recent exposures to SHS were associated with all three respiratory symptoms (odds ratio (OR) = 1.46; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.00-2.13) for chronic cough, 1.55 (95% CI = 1.08-2.21) for chronic phlegm, and 1.76 (95% CI = 1.41-2.21) for any wheeze). Workplace exposure was the most important recent exposure. Childhood exposure to SHS was also associated with all three symptoms, but only statistically significantly for chronic phlegm (OR = 1.84; 95% CI = 1.24-2.75). Additional years of living with a smoker were associated with an increased risk, but there was no evidence of a dose–response, except for chronic phlegm.


In this group of trucking industry workers, childhood and recent exposures to SHS were related to respiratory symptoms.

Occupational health; Secondhand smoke; Respiratory symptoms