23 September 2008

Anticipating the Result of Ohio's Smoking Ban

Smoking bans are everywhere because the evidence is overwhelming that secondary exposure carries potential health risks. This excerpt from the New England Journal of Medicine gives the bottom line (note: cotinine is a metabolite of nicotine):

The urinary cotinine levels of nonsmokers who lived with smokers were higher than those of nonsmokers who did not, increasing with the combined daily cigarette consumption of smokers in the family. The urinary cotinine values of nonsmokers who worked with smokers were also higher than those of nonsmokers who did not, increasing with the number of smokers in the workroom. The presence of smokers in both the home and the workplace also increased the cotinine levels... We conclude that the deleterious effects of passive smoking may occur in proportion to the exposure of nonsmokers to smokers in the home, the workplace, and the community.

For a smoking ban is to be effective, it must result in a decrease in environmental nicotine. This is easy to measure because nicotine only comes from tobacco and is not normally present in air. But to see the change, measurements would have to be made before the ban took place as well as after.

As it turns out, this was done in Spain, which instituted a smoking ban in 2006. Results of the study:

The median decrease in nicotine concentration ranged from 60.0% in public premises to 97.4% in private areas. Nicotine concentrations were also markedly reduced in bars and restaurants that went smoke-free (96.7%) and in the no-smoking zones of venues with separate spaces for smokers (88.9%). There were no significant changes in smoking zones or in premises allowing smoking, including discotheques and pubs.

This study shows that smoking bans reduce ambient nicotine levels. Reducing ambient nicotine levels reduces the public health threat posed by secondhand smoke. From this we can anticipate Ohio's smoking ban to reduce the public health risks of secondhand smoke in the workplace and community.


k said...

i could read the study, but i am lazy. how did they measure the nicotine concentration in the spain study?

WestEnder said...

They just walk in a place, take some air samples, and then a lab measures the nicotine concentration in the air samples.

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