Indoor smoking sections at airports can pose immediate health hazards

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Dec. 3, 2012

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Secondhand smoke at five major U.S. airports with designated indoor smoking areas is increasing health risks for employees and travelers, said a study in the Nov. 23 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can have immediate adverse effects on cardiovascular and respiratory systems, the report said.

The average level of respirable suspended particulates, a marker for secondhand smoke, in airport smoking sections is 23 times higher than the average level of RSPs found in similarly sized airports where lighting up inside is forbidden, data show. Even areas next to smoking sections have high levels of secondhand smoke, the study said (link).

The average RSP level in spots adjacent to an airport’s smoking section is five times higher than the average level in smoke-free airports, the study said.

Researchers monitored the indoor air quality between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1 at nine large-hub U.S. airports. A large-hub airport accounts for at least 1% of total passenger boarding in the U.S. during the previous year.

Five of the studied airports have designated indoor smoking sections that are accessible to the public: Denver International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, McCarran International in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City International and Washington Dulles International.

The other four airports are smoke-free: Chicago O’Hare International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, Orlando International and Phoenix Sky Harbor International.

Although smoking is prohibited on all U.S. domestic and international commercial airline flights, there are no federal laws or policies requiring airports to be smoke-free, the report said. Eliminating lighting up in airports is the only way to eradicate secondhand smoke exposure in the facilities, the study authors said.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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