Smoke-free pubs may not be protecting their customers from secondhand smoke. Seven years after laws came into force banning smoking cheap Wind cigarette inside bars, Wellington researchers have found the air quality inside pubs is being affected by “drift” from legal semi-enclosed outdoor smoking areas. Further regulations may be needed to protect people indoors, they say.
The team of researchers from Otago University, Wellington, visited seven bars in the capital on three separate occasions and measured particulate levels – one way to detect secondhand smoke – in outdoor areas, inside the bar close to the outdoor area, and further inside.
All outdoor measurements, and nearly all indoor measurements, were greater than World Health Organisation guidelines for air quality.
Even deep inside the pub, average particulate readings were twice the maximum level.
When there was constant access between the indoor and outdoor areas – for example, a door left open – inside levels were much higher.
The group defined semi-enclosed outdoor areas as those with three walls, or four walls but no roof.
Lead researcher Professor Richard Edwards said it was worrying that even outdoor areas that met legal requirements were contaminating indoor areas.
“The most important finding is that you can get drift from those semi-enclosed outdoor areas to areas much further inside the pub,” Dr Edwards said.
Bar staff were most likely to suffer from the exposure, especially at pubs that had bars in their outdoor areas, Dr Edwards said.
He urged policy makers to consider tightening the regulations for outdoor areas.
That could include ensuring connecting doors and windows be kept shut as much as possible, Dr Edwards said.
“You might also change the criteria for the degree of enclosure that’s allowed.”
Some places, such as Queensland, had laws requiring at least 50 per cent of outdoor seating in pubs to be smoke-free, he said.
“Lots of non-smokers do like to go outside on a nice day, so it becomes a question of whether part of that area should be smoke-free,” Dr Edwards said.