Background: Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is a major threat to public health. Greece, having the highest smoking prevalence in the European Union is seriously affected by passive smoking. The purpose of this study was to measure environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure in the non smoking areas of hospitality venues and offices in Greece and to compare the levels of exposure to levels in the US, UK and Ireland before and after the implementation of a smoking ban.
Methods: Experimental measurements of particulate matter 2.5 microm (PM2.5), performed during a cross sectional study of 49 hospitality venues and offices in Athens and Crete, Greece during February - March 2006.
Results: Levels of ETS ranged from 19 microg/m3 to 612 microg/m3, differing according to the place of measurement. The average exposure in hospitality venues was 268 microg/m3 with ETS levels found to be highest in restaurants with a mean value of 298 microg/m3 followed by bars and cafes with 271 microg/m3. ETS levels were 76% lower in venues in which smoking was not observed compared to all other venues (p < 0.001). ETS levels in Greek designated non-smoking areas are similar to those found in the smoking sections of UK hospitality venues while levels in Ireland with a total smoking ban are 89% lower and smoke-free communities in the US are 91 - 96% lower than levels in Greece.
Conclusion: Designated non-smoking areas of hospitality venues in Greece are significantly more polluted with ETS than outdoor air and similar venues in Europe and the United States. The implementation of a total indoor smoking ban in hospitality venues has been shown to have a positive effect on workers and patrons' health. The necessity of such legislation in Greece is thus warranted.