Passive smoking on commercial airline flights

JAMA. 1989 Feb 10;261(6):867-72.


In-flight exposure to nicotine, urinary cotinine levels, and symptom self-reports were assessed in a study of nine subjects (five passengers and four attendants) on four routine commercial flights each of approximately four hours' duration. Urine samples were collected for 72 hours following each flight. Exposures to nicotine measured during the flights using personal exposure monitors were found to be variable, with some nonsmoking areas attaining levels comparable to those in smoking sections. Attendants assigned to work in nonsmoking areas were not protected from smoke exposure. The type of aircraft ventilation was important in determining the levels of in-flight nicotine exposure. The environmental tobacco smoke levels that occurred produced measurable levels of cotinine (a major metabolite of nicotine) in the urine of passengers and attendants. Passengers who experienced the greatest smoke exposure had the highest levels of urinary cotinine. Changes in eye and nose symptoms between the beginning and end of the flights were significantly related both to nicotine exposure during the flight and to the subsequent urinary excretion of cotinine. In addition, subjects' perceptions of annoyance and smokiness in the airplane cabin were also related to in-flight nicotine exposure and urinary excretion measures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Aircraft*
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution* / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine