Air quality impact of smoking ban assessed

An investigation into how much the air quality in Dublin's pubs has improved since its smoking ban was introduced should help persuade drinkers and bar workers across the Irish Sea that the ban due to come in this summer in the UK will have huge health benefits.

Led by Dr Luke Clancy, director of lobby group the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society in Dublin, the study compared the concentrations of particulate matter and benzene in the city’s pubs before the ban came into force and again a year later, as well as assessing the changes in the respiratory health of a number of bar workers.

Both PM2.5 and PM10 were measured in 42 pubs while benzene was recorded in 26 of them.

81 barmen volunteered to have the levels of carbon monoxide they exhaled tested, along with the cotinine levels in their saliva, another indicator of passive smoking.

They were also asked to fill out a questionairre relating to any symptoms they had experienced which could be related to environmental exposure to tobacco smoke.

The second set of results showed that particulate matter was down to just 17% of its pre-ban level while carginogenic benzene was also down by 80.2%.

Similar figures were recorded for exhaled carbon monoxide, down 79%, and salivary cotinine, down 81%.

Self-reported symptoms of exposure were also dramatically reduced in non-smoking barmen.

As well as quantifying the changes, the study concluded that, as might be expected, a total workplace smoking ban results in a significant reduction in air pollution and an improvement in respiratory health.

Dr Clancy said in a statement: “These results confirm that the approach of a total ban on smoking in the workplace is successful in reducing the exposure of workers to particles.”

“We have previously shown that a reduction of particle levels in ambient air resulted in marked health benefits in terms of respiratory and cardiovascular mortality.”

The results will be digested with interest across Europe, as a number of other states begin to see the effects of their own recently implemented bans or gear up for similar measures.

A similar ban will come into force in the UK this summer.

Dr Clancy’s research was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine this week.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie