Background: Despite epidemiologic, experimental and observational data on the association of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and adverse health effects, bar and restaurant workers remain exposed to ETS in the majority of states and countries.
Methods: Three public health surveillance systems were used to identify and conduct a follow-up investigation of a reported acute asthma death of a young waitress in a bar.
Results: The waitress collapsed at the bar where she worked and was declared dead shortly thereafter. Evaluation of the circumstances of her death and her medical history concluded that her death was from acute asthma due to environmental tobacco smoke at work.
Conclusions: This is the first reported acute asthma death associated with work-related ETS. Recent studies of asthma among bar and restaurant workers before and after smoking bans support this association. This death dramatizes the need to enact legal protections for workers in the hospitality industry from secondhand smoke.