An air quality study in Baton Rouge bars and casinos shows employees in those establishments are regularly exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution and the only proven means to eliminate this exposure is to enact a comprehensive smoke-free air policy.
“We’ve known the air quality was unhealthy in bars and casinos that allow smoking but haven’t had the hard data to prove the case in Baton Rouge. This study shows, without a doubt, that employees in these work places are at a significantly greater risk of cancer, heart disease and other tobacco-related illnesses,” says Raegan Carter, spokesperson for the Smoke-free EBR campaign.
The study, prepared by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, assessed 20 bars and casinos in East Baton Rouge Parish. Among the 20 locations monitored, there were six smoke-free bars and 11 bars and three casinos that permit indoor smoking. In the 14 locations (bars and casinos) where smoking is allowed indoors, there were, on average, 5.8 cigarettes burning during the visits. This translates to an average of 0.75 burning cigarettes per 100 cubic meters of air in these places. The report says the level of fine particle air pollution was unhealthy (PM2.5 = 140 μg/m3) and is 23 times higher than the smoke-free bars in East Baton Rouge.
The report goes on to say particles of this size are released in significant amounts from burning cigarettes and are easily inhaled deep into the lungs of those around them. This can cause a “variety of adverse health effects including cardiovascular and respiratory morbidity and death.”
Carter says the report also demonstrates that ventilation systems do not sufficiently eliminate the risks of second and thirdhand smoke. Such systems are no substitute for a smoke-free environment.
“There is no doubt that secondhand smoke in the levels reported in this study can cause heart disease, lung cancer, nasal sinus cancer, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma and middle ear infections in children and various other respiratory illnesses. There are more than 3,000 of our family members, friends and neighbors who currently work in positions that put them at a substantially greater risk of contracting these illnesses. That’s simply unacceptable. There is also evidence suggesting secondhand smoke exposure is causally associated with stroke, breast and cervical cancer, low birthweight, spontaneous abortion, negative effects on the development of cognition and behavior and exacerbation of cystic fibrosis. These risks can be significantly mitigated by enacting a smoke-free ordinance and doing it now, rather than waiting,” Carter says.
The authors of the study conclude saying, “This study demonstrates that employees and patrons in East Baton Rouge bars and casinos with smoking allowed are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution. Establishments that do not allow smoking indoors had acceptable air quality, similar to outdoors. A comprehensive smoke-free air policy that prohibits smoking in all indoor public places is the only proven means to eliminate this exposure to toxic tobacco smoke pollution. This type of policy will result in improved quality of life and health outcomes for East Baton Rouge workers and residents.”
The Smoke-free EBR Coalition is comprised of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living, the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation and numerous other local and national organizations. For more information, visit our website at SmokefreeEBR.org.