Secondhand smoke puts travelers at risk

Smoking anywhere inside airports is dangerous to non-smoking travelers, a new study suggests Photo: CDC/Wikimedia Commons

ATLANTA, November 20, 2012 ― Secondhand smoke in airports risks the health of travelers and airport employees, finds a new study from the Centers for Disease Control.

“Adopting policies that completely prohibit smoking in all indoor areas is the only effective way to eliminate involuntary SHS exposure,” the report determined. “…Smoke-free policies at the state, local, or airport authority levels can eliminate involuntary exposure to (secondhand smoke) inside airports and protect employees and travelers of all ages from (secondhand smoke).”

The CDC measured respirable suspended particulates (RSPs) at five “large hub” U.S. airports. The study revealed air pollution levels in designated smoking areas – such as bars, restaurants and/or ventilated smoking rooms – were 23 times higher than levels in smoke-free airports.

The study found the impact of secondhand smoke can be measured in areas outside of designated smoking areas. While federal law prohibits smoking on airplanes, there is no federal law banning smoking inside airports, and state anti-smoking laws often exclude airports.

“Instead of going entirely smoke-free, five airports continue to allow smoking in restaurants, bars or ventilated smoking rooms,” Brian King, an epidemiologist with CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health and co-author of the report, said in a release. “However, research shows that separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot fully eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. People who spend time in, pass by, clean, or work near these rooms are at risk of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

For the study, released Tuesday, the CDC collected data at Denver International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, McCarran International in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City International, and Washington Dulles International airports between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1.

“The average level of RSPs in the smoking-permitted areas of these five airports was 16 times the average level in nonsmoking areas (boarding gate seating sections) and 23 times the average level of RSPs in the smoke-free airports,” according to the study. “The average RSP level in areas adjacent to the smoking-permitted areas was four times the average level in nonsmoking areas of the five airports with designated smoking areas and five times the average level in smoke-free airports.”

Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer in adults who don’t smoke.

“Certain tobacco product manufacturers have promoted and paid for separately enclosed and ventilated smoking areas in airports and have opposed efforts to implement smoke-free policies in airports,” according to the study.

“Most airports with designated smoking areas are explicitly exempted from state smoke-free laws or are located in states without comprehensive smoke-free laws.” The study concludes: “Completely eliminating smoking inside airports is the only way to eliminate SHS exposure for nonsmoking workers and travelers of all ages.”

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Todd DeFeo

Todd DeFeo jouned The Washington Times Communities in May 2012. He covers travel and Georgia. A marketing professional who never gave up his award-winning journalistic ways, DeFeo revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He also serves as editor of The Travel Trolley.


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