Secondhand smoke exposure in outdoor children's playgrounds in 11 European countries

Environ Int. 2021 Apr:149:105775. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2020.105775. Epub 2020 Nov 20.


Introduction: Tobacco presence in outdoor children's playgrounds is concerning not only because it leads to secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure, but also cigarette butt pollution and tobacco normalization.

Objectives: This study aimed to assess SHS exposure in children's playgrounds, according to area-level socioeconomic status (SES), smoke-free regulations, national smoking prevalence, and SHS exposure prevalence in playgrounds (2017-2018).

Methods: We monitored vapor-phase nicotine concentration and tobacco-related variables in 20 different playgrounds in 11 European countries (n = 220 measurements) from March 2017 to April 2018. Playgrounds were selected according to area-level SES. Data on the number of people smoking, and cigarette butts inside the playground and on playground surroundings (<1 m away) were recorded. Playground smoking bans, the Tobacco Control Scale (TCS) score, national smoking prevalence and SHS exposure prevalence in playgrounds were used to group countries. To determine nicotine presence, we dichotomized concentrations using the limit of quantification as a cut-off point (0.06 μg/m3). Nicotine median concentrations were compared using non-parametric tests, and nicotine presence and tobacco-related observational variables using the Chi-squared test.

Results: Airborne nicotine presence was found in 40.6% of the playgrounds. Median nicotine concentration was <0.06 μg/m3 (Interquartile range: <0.06-0.125) and higher median concentrations were found in more deprived neighborhoods, non-regulated playgrounds, in countries with lower overall TCS scores, higher national smoking prevalence and higher SHS exposure prevalence in playgrounds. Overall, people were smoking in 19.6% of the playgrounds. More than half of playgrounds had cigarette butts visible inside (56.6%) and in the immediate vicinity (74.4%). Presence of butts inside playgrounds was higher in sites from a low area-level SES, in countries with low TCS scores, and greater smoking prevalence and SHS exposure prevalence (p<0.05).

Conclusions: There is evidence of SHS exposure in children's playgrounds across Europe. These findings confirm the need for smoking bans in playgrounds and better enforcement in those countries with smoking bans in playgrounds.

Keywords: Child; Playground; Smoke-free regulations; Socioeconomic status; Tobacco smoke pollution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Social Class
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution* / analysis


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Nicotine