Study compares smoky bars with smog
SUMMIT COUNTY – A new study gives smoke-free workplace proponents new ammunition for a battle they don’t plan on losing.The study, conducted by biophysicist James Repace of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, shows that people sitting in bars where smoking is allowed are exposed to more carcinogens than if they were standing on a busy industrial city corner clogged with diesel trucks.”I’m not surprised by it at all,” said John Bunker, the interim tobacco cessation official for the Summit Prevention Alliance. “This is just the first time I’ve ever seen the numbers.”Repace, the scientist who first showed secondhand smoke causes thousands of lung cancer deaths each year in the United States, tested air in a casino, pool hall and six taverns in Delaware between November 2002 and January 2003.His tests showed that two major carcinogens in tobacco smoke were present in the air. In some cases, the carcinogens were, on average, four times and up to 15 times higher, than standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for outdoor air – and 49 times higher than the levels at rush hour on Interstate 95 in Wilmington, Del., and toll booths in Boston.Two months after the state imposed an indoor smoking ban, those numbers dropped 90 percent, the study shows.”It’s not surprising,” said Don Parsons, one of those who headed up the SmokeFree Initiative in Summit County. “But it’s another dramatic confirmation of the problems with indoor secondhand smoke.”Repace’s study also showed that ventilation systems – often touted by bar and restaurant owners as a means by which to eliminate the smoke – can’t exchange air fast enough to keep pace with smokers.”It’s much worse than anyone had anticipated,” said Breckenridge Town Councilmember Jim Lamb, who fought on behalf of the Smoke-free Initiative in Summit County. “That was the whole push behind (SmokeFree Summit’s actions). It’s helped precipitate a lot of action in this country and around the world.”Officials in New Brunswick and Manitoba, Canada, announced Monday that their provinces will go smoke free Oct. 1, joining the province of New Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, which went smoke free May 1. Saskatchewan will go smoke-free Jan. 1, 2005.Summit County went smoke free on June 1.Locally, smoke-free workplace proponents don’t believe those in favor of repealing or changing the ban are done fighting.”I don’t think we’ve heard the end of it,” Bunker said. “I think it’s going to go on and on. The bar owners are swearing up and down that it’s having an impact on business.””Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, what’s a little bit of smoke; it’s just an annoyance,'” Lamb said. “No, it’s not an annoyance. It’s a significant health hazard.””I think there will always be people complaining about things,” Parsons said, noting that people complained when the first public health laws addressing pasteurized milk, refrigeration, rats, flies and sexually transmitted diseases were approved. “People are still complaining about government intrusion. This is the same kind of thing. It’s a cultural change.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at email@example.com.
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