Aim: To measure the relation between workplace smoking policies and exposures to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) of workers in bars and restaurants.
Methods: 114 workers in Wellington and Auckland were questioned about sources of exposure to ETS and smoking habits, and details of the smoke-free policy in their work place were recorded. A hair sample was collected from each participant and tested for nicotine.
Results: Among non-smoking workers, hair nicotine levels varied strongly according to the smoke free policy at their place of work (Kruskall-Wallis, chi2 = 26.38, p < 0.0001). Those working in 100% smoke free restaurants had much lower levels than staff working in bars with no restrictions on smoking, and levels were intermediate for staff working in places with a partial smoking ban. These findings were not changed when adjustments were made for other sources of ETS exposure. Hair nicotine levels among nonsmokers working in places with no restriction on smoking were similar to hair nicotine levels of active smokers.
Conclusion: The present New Zealand Smoke Free Environment Act does not protect workers in the hospitality industry from exposure to ETS. The findings from this study highlight the substantial levels of exposure of bar and restaurant staff from patrons' smoking.