Passive smoking exposure: a risk factor for chronic bronchitis and asthma in adults?

Chest. 2002 Sep;122(3):1086-90. doi: 10.1378/chest.122.3.1086.


Objective: The effects of passive smoke exposure on respiratory health are still under debate. Therefore, we examined the risk of respiratory symptoms related to passive smoke exposure among German adults within the European Community Respiratory Health Survey.

Methods: The questionnaire data of the population-based sample (n = 1,890) were analyzed. Multiple logistic regression models were carried out for current asthma (asthma symptoms or medication), chronic bronchitis (cough with phlegm for > or = 3 months per year), and wheezing as dependent variables, and self-reported exposure to passive smoke at home and at the workplace as independent variables after adjusting for city, age, gender, active smoking, and socioeconomic status as well as occupational exposure to dusts and/or gases.

Results: The relative odds for chronic bronchitis were significantly higher in subjects reporting involuntary tobacco smoke exposure in the workplace (odds ratio [OR], 1.90; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.16 to 3.11). Likewise, the adjusted OR for asthma was slightly elevated (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 0.99 to 2.32). The risk of chronic bronchitis (OR, 3.07; 95% CI, 1.56 to 6.06), asthma (OR, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.07 to 3.97), and wheezing (OR, 2.12; 95% CI, 1.25 to 3.58) increased significantly with a daily exposure of > 8 h.

Conclusion: The control of passive smoke exposure in the workplace might reduce the risk of respiratory symptoms independently of exposure to other airborne contaminants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Bronchitis / etiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution