2012-11-20 HealthDay News: Higher levels of SHS outside airport smoking rooms

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Dr. Michael Givel

Dr. Michael S. Givel and I submitted a detailed paper on airport smoking which was subsequently published in the peer-reviewed international journal, Tobacco Control, in March 2004. The paper was titled “Airport smoking rooms don’t work” and reported on nicotine monitor measurements near the entrance to one of the smoking rooms then operating in Lambert St. Louis International Airport.

Dr. Givel’s primary contribution to this paper was a detailed review of previously secret tobacco industry documents which showed their active goal of maintaining smoking in major airports because they were high-profile locations.

Prior to the above paper, there were a number of TV reports focusing on Missouri GASP’s efforts to persuade Lambert Airport to go smoke-free, such as the following KSDK-TV News Channel 5 COVER STORY by reporter Linton Johnson in July 1998, which I dubbed Lambert Airport’s “DEATH BOXES.”


The video featured an interview with two MoGASP supporters, Sr. Luella Dames and Ms. Vivian Dietemann, both of whom suffer from smoking-exacerbated asthma. The image below was captured from the TV report.

Sr. Luella Dames & Vivian Dietemann during a TV interview in 1998. They are holding a MoGASP complaint to the FAA Office of Civil Rights citing the ADA, which requires access to public accommodations for breathing disabled individuals like them.

Missouri GASP conducted several nicotine monitor measurements at Lambert Airport, including a later independent study to confirm earlier results. The recent study reported below for smoking rooms in other airports confirms MoGASP’s published results.

TUESDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) — Levels of secondhand smoke outside smoking rooms and other designated smoking areas in airports are five times higher than in smoke-free airports, a new U.S. study finds.
         These high levels of secondhand smoke put the health of travelers and airport employees at risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers who published their findings Nov. 20 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
         Their study of five large hub U.S. airports also found that air pollution levels inside designated smoking areas — such as ventilated smoking rooms, restaurants and bars — were 23 times higher than air pollution levels in airports that were completely smoke-free.
         The findings “further confirm that ventilated smoking rooms and designated smoking areas are not effective,” Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in an agency news release. “Prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas is the only effective way to fully eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.”
         Five of the 29 largest U.S. airports allow smoking in designated areas that are accessible to the public. The airports are: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Denver International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport.
         In 2011, about 15 percent of all U.S. air travel took place at these five airports, accounting for more than 110 million passenger boardings, the CDC authors noted.
         Smoking is banned on all U.S. domestic and international commercial airline flights, but no federal law requires airports to be smoke-free.
         “Instead of going entirely smoke-free, five airports continue to allow smoking in restaurants, bars or ventilated smoking rooms. However, research shows that separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot fully eliminate secondhand smoke exposure,” report co-author Brian King, an epidemiologist with CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in the news release.
         “People who spend time in, pass by, clean or work near these rooms are at risk of exposure to secondhand smoke,” King added.
         There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, according to a 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s report. The effects of secondhand smoke include heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children.

3 responses to “2012-11-20 HealthDay News: Higher levels of SHS outside airport smoking rooms

  1. Mogasp, I’d like to make an important clarification to the first sentence in this story: It says, “smoke outside smoking rooms and other designated smoking areas in airports are five times higher than in smoke-free airports”

    When, if my reading of the research is correct, it SHOULD say, “If you stand just three feet outside the door of smoking areas in some airports you will find levels of smoke that are five times higher than in airports with no smoke at all.”

    Which is similar to saying, “If you stand in a park covered in grass you will find levels of grass pollen (known to set off or exacerbate deadly allergic asthmatic reactions) that are five times higher than found in parks safely covered with concrete.”

    Of *course* microscopic levels of tobacco smoke will be higher immediately next to a smoking area than in a facility with no smoking allowed. That says absolutely *NOTHING* about the general “health of travelers and airport employees [put} at risk.”

    Highly misleading scare news.

    – MJM

    mogasp reply: Thanks for your comment but I don’t agree with it.
    In the measurement conducted independently for MoGASP at Lambert Airport, the nicotine level was significant when measured near the gate area, 10 m/35 ft from the smoking room entrance, and three times higher than in Seattle-Tac airport, which was smokefree at the time but allowed smoking around entrances.
    Those who would be most affected would be long-term employees working in that area and highly smoke-sensitive passengers deplaning at the adjoining gate. One such passenger complained to MoGASP of being made very sick after changing planes due to SHS exposure at Lambert Airport when smoking rooms still existed. And she said it happened on two different occasions a year apart.

  2. So called study is more propaganda then science. Exactly what level does it become unsafe? Care to provide a dose response curve? And don’t quote the 2006 Surgeon Generals Report. (There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke,) It is pure hogwash.The only no risk free model is the Linear No Threshold Model. There has never been a study that accurately showed a dose response curve. They were all guesses based on observational studies. And not one of them came even close to a linear dose response. So again what is an unsafe level. Also all of the reports used by anti-smoking groups use the highly questionable methodology of Meta-analysis, They even admit as much on Page 21.
    http://veritasvincitprolibertate.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/meta-analysis-science-or-a-tool-for-advocacy/

    I can show you tons of experts that disagree with the use of it. Especially with observational studies. Here is just one.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/a-ccsvi-meta-analysis/

    Marshall P. Keith

    mogasp comment: You raise a lot of different arguments above and I don’t have time to respond to them. However, I thought I’d check out your last comment about meta-analysis, and here’s what I found concerning the authors’ conclusions:

    “Our findings showed a positive association between chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency and multiple sclerosis. However, poor reporting of the success of blinding and marked heterogeneity among the studies included in our review precluded definitive conclusions.”

    You observed:

    “In other words – the data are all over the place, making a meta-analysis all but worthless.”

    But just because the authors of this paper, which used meta-analysis, acknowledged it was weak doesn’t invalidate the meta-analysis used in the case of SHS studies. I assume that the methodology has merit when used appropriately.

  3. Mogasp, you actually confirm my point: the nicotine level 35 feet from the smoking room was three times the nicotine level in an airport where NO ONE WAS SMOKING INSIDE!

    In other words…three times virtually zero. Here’s a thought model exercise if you want to give it a try. Compute the amount of nicotine measured as per cubic meter of air. Normal human respiration is about 1 cm/hr. Look up the fatal dose of nicotine and compute how many hours you’d have to stand within 30 feet of the smoking area to get that dose.

    By the way…was that a 24 hour average measurement? Or a measurement at peak times? Or a peak measurement within peak times? I’m guessing probably somewhere between all those, but thought I’d ask.

    And yes, I know the concern isn’t over nicotine poisoning: my point however is that simply saying it was “significantly higher” is meaningless in any clinical human health sense.

    Re passenger: I’m sure some have also been sickened in ports w/ floral shops. Sad, but true. Allergies.

    – MJM

    mogasp reply: You should read the paper, which is now freely available on-line, as noted above: “Airport smoking rooms don’t work” If you did you would see immediately from Table 1 that IT’S NOT 3X ZERO!
    10 m. from a Lambert Airport smoking room entrance it was 0.72 micrograms/cu m. of nicotine vapor, averaged over 4 hours. For a smoke-free Seattle-Tacoma Airport bar remote from entrances it was 0.15 micrograms/cu m., sampling averaged over a longer period. The latter value was attributed primarily to permitted smoking around airport entrances. That figure was used to deduce that Lambert’s smoking lounges contributed approximately 70%-80% of the average airborne nicotine vapor concentration measured near Lambert’s smoking room.
    Repeat: Please READ THE PAPER.

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