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CDC Reports: Food Service Workers Smoke. A Lot.

Cooks, smoking.
Cooks, smoking.
micromoogman/flickr

There's nothing like toiling over a smoking stove to get you hankering for a cigarette. According to a brand-new CDC study that surveyed nearly 115,000 working adults between 2004 and 2010, food service workers -- along with miners and construction workers -- are more likely to smoke than most. Thirty percent of chefs, waiters, and dishwashers light up, a solid jolt up from 19.6%, the estimated percentage of all American working adults who cling to the habit.

Some experts -- and plenty of amateur analysts -- may come to the conclusion that food service workers tend to be poorer, less educated, and younger than professionals, and that the statistics reinforce the relationship between smoking and socio-economic status more than smoking and the sauté station. Or maybe it's because a lot of chefs hail from countries in Europe, Asia, or Latin America where smoking is less maligned and thus more popular. Or it's that labor-intensive jobs necessitate regular breaks. And under some circumstances, there's no better excuse for a break than a cigarette. Or at least that's how it was before admitting you smoked became tantamount to owning up to cannibalism.

Back in our food-service days though, we spent half a shift ripping butts in the cooler in the back of the kitchen. The main cook used to spark his Parliaments directly off a gas burner of the sauce-and-grease-frosted stove, just out of view of customers. We were cautious enough to hide in the icy locker, perched on stacked boxes of pollack, our feet propped up on pillows of frozen fries.

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