Passive smoking rates drop by 95% among hospitality workers

The amount of second-hand smoke inhaled by hospitality staff has fallen by a massive 95% since England’s smoking ban in enclosed places was introduced in July, according to new research.

The study for charity Cancer UK and carried out by the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre in Warwick found non-smoking hospitality workers had four times less cotinine – a byproduct of nicotine and an indicator of tobacco smoke exposure – in their saliva in August than they had in June.

They calculated that, on average, employees’ exposure was the equivalent to smoking 190 cigarettes a year before the legislation, and that this had fallen to the equivalent of around 44 cigarettes since.

They assessed air quality in almost 40 venues across the country, including pubs, bars and restaurants. The findings are broadly in line with the experience of workers in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic since their bans came into force.

Hilary Wareing, co-director of the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre, said: “The improvements in air quality and reduction in cotinine levels were even better than we could have imagined.”

Just over half of employees believed their health had improved since the ban, she added, with 80% of customers agreeing. However, the Royal College of Physicians warned against complacency, arguing that more could be done by the medical profession to help those who remain heavily addicted to smoking.

On a lighter note, a Dublin doctor identified an unexpected benefit from Ireland’s smoking ban – improved accordion music in pubs.

John Garvey, specialist registrar at St Vincent’s University Hospital, writing in the British Medical Journal (vol 335, pg 630) said accordion repairers were reporting less build-up of tobacco-related soot, which previously had affected the pitch of the instruments.

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