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Smokeless workplaces, helping job seekers

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KEEP YOUR SMOKE TO YOURSELF: New research shows second-hand smoke is just about as bad as smoking itself - but only 24 states have banned smoking in bars and restaurants.

To keep healthy, what should employees in smoke-filled environments do?

Find a new job, said Richard Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic's medical school.

"There's no lower limit of exposure to second-hand smoke that is safe," Hurt said. Even workplaces with state-of-the-art ventilation systems don't protect employees if smoking is going on inside the building, he said.

According to the American Cancer Society, 24 states have instituted a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, while 31 ban it in private workplaces, says the Action on Smoking and Health, a non-smokers' rights organization. A number of remaining states are considering bans on smoking in indoor public places.

Second-hand smoke has long been known to harm the heart and contribute to respiratory illnesses, but a recent study in the British Medical Journal found that exposure to second-hand smoke may increase a non-smoker's risk of cognitive impairment and dementia - in some cases by up to 30 per cent.

High levels of exposure to second-hand smoke may also be close to actual smoking in terms of increased risk of lung cancer, diabetes and other tobacco-related maladies, according to the BMJ study.

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HELPING JOB-SEEKERS: Job hunts are stretching even longer for the growing number of unemployed. Try not to be ashamed of losing a position, urges Jamaica Eilbes, a recruiter for staffing company Manpower Inc. "Everybody knows somebody who's been let go," she said.

Friends and family can help ease the anxiety of a long search for work, said Eilbes, whose husband looked for five months before finding a job.

Don't nag a loved one who has been laid off, or ask him what he accomplished that day. Instead, reiterate that things will eventually get better, let the job-seeker vent and try to bring up other subjects to distract anxiety.

She urges someone on the job trail to spread the news of unemployment long and far. Friends and family should get involved also; the more people who know you are looking for work, the better, Eilbes said.

She also recommends updating a resume with volunteer work you've done since getting laid off and staging mock interviews with a job recruiter or someone you trust.

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WORRIES, WORRIES: Plunging stock prices and rising health care costs have people fretting, but it's job security that worries Americans most.

A survey earlier this month asked U.S. adults what issues most concerned them, and 38 per cent said the state of their job, while 23 per cent cited stock market performance, 20 per cent said the cost of health care and 12 per cent said saving for retirement.

However, those concerns varied markedly for people of different ages, race, income and education level.

Older Americans - those ages 55 and up - were less concerned about jobs and worried more about how markets were faring, while half or more of people aged 18 to 44 were most worried about their employment status. The ethnic group most concerned about their jobs was non-Hispanic African-Americans, 55 per cent of whom worried about job security.

While only 11 per cent of those who had not finished high school worried most about the state of the Dow Jones industrials, 30 per cent of college graduates cited markets as their top worry.

Job security was a top worry for all household income ranges surveyed, but the number most concerned about the cost of health care spiked higher among those with lower income levels. Only 16 per cent of people who said their families made more than $100,00 a year were most concerned about health care costs, but 30 per cent of those who made less than $35,000 said it was their biggest worry.

The telephone survey, by financial services firm Edward Jones, polled 1,000 U.S. adults randomly selected from Feb. 6 to Feb. 9. The margin of error was three percentage points.

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