Secondhand smoke exposure and other signs of tobacco consumption at outdoor entrances of primary schools in 11 European countries

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Nov 15;743:140743. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140743. Epub 2020 Jul 7.


Introduction: Although smoking restrictions at child-related settings are progressively being adopted, school outdoor entrances are neglected in most smoke-free policies across Europe.

Objectives: To describe secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure and tobacco-related signs in outdoor entrances of primary schools in Europe according to area-level socioeconomic status (SES), smoke-free policy, national smoking prevalence, and geographical region.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study we monitored vapor-phase nicotine concentrations at 220 school outdoor entrances in 11 European countries (March 2017-October 2018). To account for nicotine presence, we used the laboratory's limit of quantification of 0.06 μg/m3 as point threshold. We also recorded the presence of smell of smoke, people smoking, cigarette butts, and ashtrays. Half of the schools were in deprived areas. We grouped countries according to their Tobacco Control Scale (TCS) score, smoking prevalence (2017-2018), and United Nations M49 geographical region.

Results: There were detectable levels of nicotine in 45.9% of the outdoor entrances, in 29.1% smell of smoke, in 43.2% people smoking, in 75.0% discarded butts, and in 14.6% ashtrays. Median nicotine concentration was below the laboratory's limit of quantification <0.06 μg/m3 (Interquartile range:<0.06-0.119). We found higher SHS levels in countries with lower TCS scores, higher national smoking prevalence, and in the Southern and Eastern European regions. People smoking were more common in schools from lower area-level SES and in countries with lower TCS scores (p<0.05).

Conclusions: Smoking at school outdoor entrances is a source of SHS exposure in Europe. These findings support the extension of smoking bans with a clear perimeter to the outdoor entrances of schools.

Keywords: Child; Educational center; Smoke-free regulations; Tobacco smoke pollution.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Smoke-Free Policy*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • Tobacco Use


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution