Questions under study: Hospitality workers are a population particularly at risk from the noxious effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The Canton of Vaud, Switzerland banned smoking in public places in September 2009. This prospective study addresses the impact of the ban on the health of hospitality workers.
Methods: ETS exposure was evaluated using a passive sampling device that measures airborne nicotine; lung function was assessed by spirometry; health-related quality of life, ETS exposure symptoms and satisfaction were measured by questionnaire.
Results: 105 participants (smokers and non-smokers) were recruited initially and 66 were followed up after one year. ETS exposure was significantly lower after the ban. Hospitality workers had lower pre-ban forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) values than expected. FEV1 remained stable after the ban, with a near-significant increase in the subgroup of asthmatics only. FVC increased at one year follow-up from 90.42% to 93.05% (p = 0.02) in the entire cohort; women, non-smokers and older participants gained the greatest benefit. The health survey showed an increase in physical wellbeing after the ban, the greatest benefit being observed in non-smokers. ETS exposure symptoms were less frequent after the ban, especially red and irritated eyes and sneezing. The new law was judged useful and satisfactory by the vast majority of employees, including smokers.
Conclusion: The recent cantonal ban on smoking in public places brought about an improvement in lung function, physical well-being and ETS symptoms of hospitality workers, including smokers.