Cigarettes pollute ten times more than diesel engines

Ten times more air pollution is produced by cigarette smoke than from the exhaust fumes emitted by diesel-powered vehicle, a report released this week has stated.

Released by the British Medical Association (BMA) following experiments conducted by the Tobacco Control Unit at the National Cancer Institute in Italy, the study comprised the readings taken from a turbo diesel two litre engine left running and from three filter cigarettes left smouldering, both for a period of 30 minutes.

An hour later the combined particulate levels, which also cause cancer (see related story), were ten times higher for the cigarettes than for the car. The diesel engine was found to produce double the particulate matter measured outdoors at the time, while the cigarettes produced 15 times more.

A statement released this week by leading air pollution expert, Joel Schwartz of Harvard Medical School, branded diesel emissions a “public health disaster”. So, according to Dr Giovanni Invernizzi who conducted the study, having proved that air pollution from cigarette smoke is ten times more harmful than diesel exhaust fumes should act as a red light to those reluctant to tackle the UK’s smoking epidemic.

Dr Invernizzi told edie: “Indoor pollution created by cigarette smoke, especially in pubs, discos and restaurants, greatly exceeds that produced by vehicles at the world’s most crowded city road crossings. More detailed research is now needed to identify exactly to what extent cigarette pollution is contributing to global warming.”

Research has long shown that smoking is bad for our health, but evidence that it is also harmful to the environment (see related story) is now beginning to mount, raising public awareness.

Discussions on whether smoking should be banned in public places have been rife over the past year, following the Mayor of London’s controversial Big smoke survey and ensuing Government debates on the matter.

Following Ireland recently imposing restrictions on smoking and growing concerns about its effects, the hospitality industry has predicted that four out of five restaurants will be smoke-free within two years.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver recently joined the trend toward keep our air clean by banning smoking at his London eaterie, Fifteen. Gordon Ramsay has also announced he will do the same at all seven of his restaurants next month.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said in a statement this week of the capital’s air quality problem: “London is doing as much as it can to meet the Government and the EU’s air quality standards. I am making London a low emission zone and I have produced London’s first air quality strategy. But we are still a long way from guaranteeing Londoners the clean air they have every right to expect.”

The Mayor’s Office was not immediately available to comment on the implications that this report would have on proposals to make London a smoke-free zone.

By Jane Kettle

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