Indoor smoking bans: Are they creating unhealthy outdoor zones for secondhand smoke?

May 22, 2007

With the growing number of smoking bans in restaurants and bars driving smokers outside, researchers in Athens, Georgia, are hoping to find out whether secondhand smoke from smokers clustered outside these establishments is posing a health hazard of its own.

On Monday, May 22, at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International Conference, the researchers presented findings from a study in which they measured the increase of pollutants from secondhand smoke.

“Athens is a college town, and we have thousands of college kids standing shoulder to shoulder outside bars and restaurants on weekend nights. In select areas outside certain establishments, we believe many of these young people are exposed to elevated levels of secondhand smoke,” says researcher Luke Naeher, Ph.D., of the University of Georgia College of Public Health. “You can have 40 to 50 smokers in a small area– which translates to fairly aggressive exposures to secondhand smoke, even if it’s outside. We want to know what those exposures are, and if it’s unhealthy, we want to tell policy makers who are making decisions about these regulations.”

Athens, which has more than 100 pubs and restaurants, banned smoking in bars and restaurants partially in 2004 and then fully in 2005. Smokers gather in a small common area outside many establishments.

In order to study how much secondhand smoke was being created in these areas, Dr. Naeher and his students measured carbon monoxide and small particles, known as PM2.5, which penetrate deep into the lung. Both substances are found in secondhand smoke, but they are also found in car exhaust. To determine how much of these substances came from smoke, the researchers went downtown for four weekend afternoons and evenings and measured the air in front of five locations, including two restaurants, two bars and one area with no smokers. They measured the particles and carbon monoxide every 30 seconds, and then every five minutes they counted the number of cars, smokers and nonsmokers who passed by.

They found that a rise in the pollutants was associated with an increase in the number of smokers, and not with motor vehicle traffic. “This suggests that we can measure the increase in these pollutants from secondhand smoke,” Dr. Naeher says. The researchers are conducting a follow-up study in which they will collect urine and saliva samples from students to look for chemicals that are specific to cigarette smoke, which should provide more definitive data about how much secondhand smoke people congregating outside bars and restaurants are exposed to.

“There’s a wide range of health effects that are tied to secondhand smoke,” Dr. Naeher says. “With more inside smoking bans, more people seem to be smoking outside. Are we creating zones that are potentially unhealthy" That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Source: American Thoracic Society

Explore further: As many as two-fifths of never-smoking teens are exposed to secondhand smoke worldwide

Related Stories

As many as two-fifths of never-smoking teens are exposed to secondhand smoke worldwide

January 12, 2015
Many teens who have never smoked are being exposed to the health dangers of tobacco. A new study by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, in collaboration with East Tennessee State University, the Indian Institute ...

Secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmoking adult cancer survivors has declined

June 22, 2017
From 1999/2000 to 2011/2012, exposure to secondhand smoke among nonsmoking adult cancer survivors declined from 39.6 percent to 15.7 percent, but rates of exposure were higher among those with a history of a smoking-related ...

Airport smoking areas expose travelers, workers to risk: CDC

November 20, 2012
(HealthDay)—Levels of secondhand smoke outside smoking rooms and other designated smoking areas in airports are five times higher than in smoke-free airports, a new U.S. study finds.

The Medical Minute: How smoking harms kids

November 7, 2011
Everyone knows that smoking is harmful to your health. However, smoke exposure (secondhand smoke) also can be harmful. Cigarette smoke has more than 4,000 chemicals in it, and more than 50 of these chemicals are known to ...

Proposed smoking ban heats up debate at LA housing complex (Update)

November 12, 2015
At William Mead Homes, where people live in 415 tidy if aging red-brick apartments on the edge of downtown Los Angeles, opinions on the federal government's proposed ban on smoking both inside and outside of all public housing ...

A new worry for smokers' families: 'thirdhand smoke'

April 22, 2017
Michael Miller does what many smokers do to protect his sons and daughter from cigarette smoke. He takes it outside.

Recommended for you

Minorities don't receive same health benefits of college completion as white peers

December 18, 2017
A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that black and Hispanic young adults from disadvantaged childhoods do not enjoy the same health-promoting benefits of college completion as their upwardly ...

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Your pets can't put your aging on 'paws'

December 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—In a finding that's sure to ruffle some fur and feathers, scientists report that having a pet doesn't fend off age-related declines in physical or mental health.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.