Environmental tobacco smoke exposure during travel among adults with asthma

Chest. 2002 Sep;122(3):826-8. doi: 10.1378/chest.122.3.826.


Objectives: In California, state law now prohibits smoking in most public places. We examined the prevalence and short-term health impact of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure during travel among adults with asthma.

Design, setting, and participants: A cohort of 374 nonsmoking adults with asthma recruited from a random sample of allergy, pulmonary, and family practice physicians in northern California underwent structured telephone interviews.

Measurements and results: The prevalence of self-reported ETS exposure during travel in the past 12 months was substantial (30%; 95% confidence interval, 25 to 35%). Of the exposed subjects, approximately one third (34%) indicated no other regular source of ETS exposure. ETS-related cough, wheezing, or chest tightness during travel was the most common complaint (66%), followed by eye irritation (46%) and nose irritation (43%). After ETS exposure, many subjects indicated extra inhaled asthma medication use (55%). Subjects with no other regular ETS exposure reported a greater likelihood of eye irritation (58% vs 40%; p = 0.068) and nose irritation (58% vs 36%; p = 0.025) than persons with regular exposure. In contrast, there were no differences in respiratory symptoms, asthma medication use, or asthma exacerbation by regular ETS exposure status.

Conclusions: In adults with asthma, ETS exposure is common during travel. For many subjects, travel is their principal source of exposure.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • California
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Travel*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution