October 2002

American Cancer Society Nicotine Study Press Release
Calls for the protection of all Erie County workers from secondhand smoke
Buffalo News Article: Erie County -Broader anti-smoking ban sought

Nicotine Study of Secondhand Smoke Exposure Results

Exposure to secondhand smoke is the cause of many health problems in nonsmokers, including lung cancer, heart disease, and extreme irritation to mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and throat. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the UK Government Department of Health Scientific Committee in Tobacco and Health and many other national and international agencies accept the evidence that exposures to passive smoking can cause lung cancer and conclude that secondhand smoke is a proven human carcinogen with no safe threshold of exposure. Restaurant workers, who typically have greater levels of exposure to secondhand smoke, are at between 50% and 100% increased risk for lung cancer. Erie County has a smoke-free regulation in force that restricts smoking in the indoor dining area of restaurants but not in the bar area or in stand alone bars or taverns, Niagara County does not have such a regulation and smoking is permitting without restriction in bars and in separate smoking sections in restaurants. Little information exists on the levels of secondhand smoke is present is venues with different smoking policies.

Study sections






Objective:back to top

To examine ambient nicotine levels in venues where smoking is permitted and where smoking is not permitted in Erie and Niagara Counties to provide an assessment of the impact of smokefree regulations on decreasing levels of secondhand smoke.

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In September 2002, air in 18 venues was sampled including restaurants with (n=4) and without (n=3) bar areas, stand alone bars (n=5), bowling alleys (n=2), bingo halls (n=2), and smoke-free hospitals (n=2). Volunteers wore a on their person while they were in each venue for a minimum of four hours exposure. Monitors were then sealed and sent to the laboratory for analysis to determine the amount of nicotine each monitor was exposed to in nanograms per eight hours of exposure. Nicotine levels greater than zero indicate exposure to secondhand smoke. Qualitative survey information was also obtained for each venue that included estimates of the number of people smoking and the volume of the room.

Dr. Bauer with measuring device
Dr. Joseph Bauer, Tobacco Research Scientist at The Roswell Park Cancer Institute, wears the passive nicotine air monitor.
(click for a closer look)

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Chart of findings

The results are summarized in the Figure. There was no nicotine exposure is the four venues that are smoke-free by law, including two restaurants without bars in Erie County. In places where smoking is allowed in some places, but restricted in others, detectable levels of nicotine were observed in all seven venues sampled ranging from 20 nanograms/8 hours exposed in the dining area outside an enclosed smoking room to 110 nanograms/8 hours exposed in bowling alleys. In places where smoking is unrestricted, levels of nicotine were approximately ten times higher than those observed in places where smoking is restricted including average readings of 539 nanograms/8 hours exposed in stand alone bars, 814 nanograms/8 hours exposed during a at a stand alone bar, and 940 nanogram/8 hours exposed in bingo halls. View a chart illustrating findings

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Venues that were completely smoke-free by law had no exposure to secondhand smoke.Secondhand smoke exposure was present in venues not covered by smoke-free regulations, especially those venues where smoking is currently unrestricted. Smoke-free regulations will decrease exposure to secondhand smoke and decrease disease risk.

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This project was funded by a grant from the Erie/Niagara Tobacco Free Coalition. Contributors to this study were Andrew Hyland, PhD, Joseph Bauer, PhD, and Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH from Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Catherine Vladutiu from the American Cancer Society. For more information about this study, contact Andrew Hyland, PhD at: andrew.hyland@roswellpark.org.