The aim of this paper was to compare nicotine concentration in 28 hospitality premises (HPs) in Florence and Belluno, Italy, where a smoking ban was introduced in 2005, and in 19 HPs in Vienna, Austria, where no anti-smoking law entered into force up to now. Airborne nicotine concentrations were measured in the same HPs in winter 2002 or 2004 (pre-ban measurements) and winter 2007 (post-ban measurements). In Florence and Belluno, medians decreased significantly (P < 0.001) from 8.86 [interquartile range (IQR): 2.41-45.07)] before the ban to 0.01 microg/m3 (IQR: 0.01-0.41) afterwards. In Austria (no smoking ban) the medians collected in winters 2004 and 2007 were, respectively, 11.00 (IQR: 2.53-30.38) and 15.76 microg/m3 (IQR: 2.22-31.93), with no significant differences. Measurements collected in winter 2007 in 28 HPs located in Naples, Turin, Milan (0.01 microg/m3; IQR: 0.01-0.16) confirmed post-ban results in Florence and Belluno. The medians of nicotine concentrations in Italy and Austria before the Italian ban translates, using the risk model of Repace and Lowery, into a lifetime excess lung cancer mortality risk for hospitality workers of 11.81 and 14.67 per 10,000, respectively. Lifetime excess lung cancer mortality risks for bar and disco-pub workers were 10-20 times higher than that calculated for restaurant workers, both in Italy and Austria. In winter 2007, it dropped to 0.01 per 10,000 in Italy, whereas in Austria it remained at the same levels. The drop of second-hand smoke exposure indicates a substantial improvement in air quality in Italian HPs even after 2 years from the ban.
Practical implications: The nation-wide smoking ban introduced in Italy on January 10, 2005, resulted in a drop in second-hand smoke exposure in hospitality premises, whereas in Austria, where there is no similar nation-wide smoking ban, the exposure to second-hand smoke in hospitality premises remains high. Given that second-hand smoke is considered a group 1 carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer classification, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control strongly recommends the implementation of nation-wide smoke-free policies in order to improve the indoor air quality of hospitality premises and workplaces. Results from our study strongly supports this recommendation.