Background: Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) causes disease in nonsmokers. Workplace bans on smoking are interventions to reduce exposure to ETS to try to prevent harmful health effects. On March 29, 2004, the Irish government introduced the first national comprehensive legislation banning smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. This study examines the impact of this legislation on air quality in pubs and on respiratory health effects in bar workers in Dublin.
Methods: Exposure study. Concentrations of particulate matter 2.5 microm or smaller (PM(2.5)) and particulate matter 10 microm or smaller (PM(10)) in 42 pubs were measured and compared before and after the ban. Benzene concentrations were also measured in 26 of the pubs. Health effects study. Eighty-one barmen volunteered to have full pulmonary function studies, exhaled breath carbon monoxide, and salivary cotinine levels performed before the ban and repeated 1 year after the ban. They also completed questionnaires on exposure to ETS and respiratory symptoms on both occasions.
Findings: Exposure study. There was an 83% reduction in PM(2.5) and an 80.2% reduction in benzene concentration in the bars. Health effects study. There was a 79% reduction in exhaled breath carbon monoxide and an 81% reduction in salivary cotinine. There were statistically significant improvements in measured pulmonary function tests and significant reductions in self-reported symptoms and exposure levels in nonsmoking barmen volunteers after the ban.
Conclusions: A total workplace smoking ban results in a significant reduction in air pollution in pubs and an improvement in respiratory health in barmen.