Smoking in pubs, clubs ‘has downside’

Smoke free pubs and clubs have spawned a new health hazard, with the air quality in beer gardens taking a serious dive.

Monitoring in outdoor areas at several NSW venues found smoke levels had increased by almost four times since the indoor smoking bans came into effect in July 2007.

Indoor air quality improved dramatically, according to a University of Western Sydney study, but at some venues the problem of second-hand smoke was shifted “from indoors to outdoors”.

Research leader Dr Sue Reed said the study highlighted the problem of confining smokers in areas that are poorly ventilated, despite being outside.

“If you’re a hospitality worker who has to go and serve people in those outdoor areas, or staff poker machines because we have outdoor pokies areas now, then you have moved it (the passive smoking hazard) from indoors to outdoors,” Dr Reed told AAP on Monday.

“We set out to record the situation before the bans and after … we did not expect the outdoor levels to increase, but they did.”

Devices capable of detecting toxic ultra-fine particles in the air were installed at ten venues and monitoring was conducted both before and after the indoor smoking bans took effect.

Dr Reed said the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended exposure limit for ultra-fine particles was exceeded “dozens of times outdoors”, even reaching levels 20 times higher.

“(In) the areas where people sat outdoors, the concentrations of ultra-fine particles increased and increased significantly above levels the WHO suggest could be problematic if exposed to for long periods,” she said.

At the same time, smoke levels fell by as much as 96 per cent inside the venues after the smoking bans were introduced.

The small amount of smoke found indoors could be attributed to the “cloud” a smoker brings inside with them when they return from having a cigarette, Dr Reed explained.

“At two of the venues, the spikes of very high indoor (fine particle) levels strongly correlated to large groups of smokers coming back inside at once,” she said.

“Smokers who’ve just finished a cigarette are still exhaling smoke and carry a cloud around them … they do bring it back in with them.”

Dr Reed said the level of smoke exposure indoors had improved for hospitality workers, but they were still forced to spend a lot of time outdoors breathing in “hazardously high levels of smoke”.

She will present the research, along with PhD student Maggie Davidson, at the Safety in Action conference which gets underway in Melbourne on Tuesday.

All Australian states have moved to ban smoking inside pubs and clubs over the last four year, with the NT falling into line in January this year.


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