SECONDHAND SMOKE: CA Ban Has Bartenders Breathing Easier
California's ban on smoking in bars and restaurants has left a majority of bartenders breathing easier and in better health, a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association reports. Just two months after the ban went into effect, nearly three-fifths (59%) of the San Francisco bartenders studied reported they were free of adverse symptoms such as respiratory distress, wheezing, coughing and phlegm. What's more, even bartenders who themselves smoked felt healthier when they were not being exposed to secondhand smoke, according to study author Dr. Mark Eisner of the University of California- San Francisco (Curtis, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9). The benefits of ending exposure to secondhand smoke "was somewhere in the range of what you would see with someone stopping smoking," Eisner said. The Boston Globe reports that researchers said the findings "are among the first to show that secondhand smoke can cause short-term respiratory problems as well as raise the risk of long-term diseases like cancer and heart disease" (Saltus, 12/9).
The researchers studied 53 bartenders -- who experience on average four to six times higher levels of secondhand smoke than those in other workplaces -- before and after the ban went into place and found that their median exposure to secondhand smoke decreased from 28 hours a week to two. Although the study group is considered "relatively small," the Los Angeles Times reports the results are considered "statistically significant." Dr. Gail Weinmann of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which helped fund the study, said, "This is a very important study because it shows that reduction of exposure to secondhand smoke can result in immediate benefits in adults' respiratory symptoms" (Maugh, 12/9). Eisner said the study was also significant because "evidence on whether workplace smoking bans improve lung health has been mixed" -- some studies have found an improvement in health while others have not (MSNBC.com, 12/8). Writing in an accompanying JAMA editorial, Dr. Ronald Davis of the Henry Ford Health System called for other states to follow California's lead. Eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke "can be accomplished through two different approaches," he writes, "prohibiting smoking indoors or limiting smoking to rooms that have been specially designed to prevent smoke from escaping to other areas of the building. The former approach is the preferred option" (Maugh, 12/9). Click here to read an abstract of the study.