Research findings a breath of fresh air for bar staff

Research findings a breath of fresh air for bar staff

A massive improvement in air quality is just one of the positive effects of Scotland’s smoking ban, a leading scientist from Aberdeen University will tell MSPs at today’s meeting of the Health Committee.

Research, commissioned by NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Executive, has found that Scotland's smoking ban has brought about an 86% reduction in exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) for bar workers across Scotland.  This means that the air quality in most Scottish bars is now comparable with average outdoor air quality.

Published today by 'Tobacco Control', it presents the results of the study which was carried out by a team from the Department of Environmental & Occupational Medicine at the University of Aberdeen and the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh.  The team measured the air quality in 41 bars in Scotland during the two months leading up to the ban and then again in May/June 2006. 

This study is one of the largest evaluations of the effect of smoke-free legislation on SHS levels in the hospitality sector.  The reduction indicates a substantial improvement in air quality in pubs, reducing both the occupational exposure of workers in the hospitality sector and that of non-smoking patrons.

Health Minister Andy Kerr will also appear at today's meeting of the Health Committee. Commenting on the academic research, Mr Kerr said:

"No-one should have to breathe in someone else's smoke. Exposure to second hand tobacco smoke was one of the main problems the smoking ban was designed to tackle. This research proves it's working. I welcome the fact the damage to health that passive smoking may once have done is no longer affecting staff and customers in Scotland's pubs, bars and restaurants."

Dr Sean Semple, a Lecturer in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Aberdeen, is Project Manager of the Bar workers' Health and Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure study. He said: "This is the first study to directly examine changes in air quality in Scottish pubs as a result of the smoking ban. It is also the largest pre- and post-ban set of air quality measurements ever published and shows that Scottish bars experienced a step-change in air quality with the implementation of the Smoking, Health and Social Care Act in March 2006." 

Professor Jon Ayres, Head of Aberdeen's Department of Environmental and Occupation Medicine and Principal Investigator of the study, will today be presenting the results to the Scottish Executive's Health Committee. He said: "These findings confirm the dramatic effect that smoking cessation in pubs and bars can have on air quality.  This can only be to the benefit of bar staff and customers alike. It will be of great interest to see the results of our health assessments from this largest ever study of the effects of a smoking ban on bar workers health. "

Sally Haw, Principal Public Health Advisor for Health Scotland said: "The results of this study provide further confirmation of the high level of compliance with and the great success of Scotland's smokefree legislation. They also demonstrate quite how unhealthy some bar working environments were before the ban.  We anticipate that as well as improvement in the health of bar workers, we will also see improvements in the health of other population groups in Scotland, resulting from the legislation. "

The Aberdeen team also carried out studies with 371 bar workers from Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh, the Borders and Glasgow to investigate respiratory health and attitudes towards the smokefree legislation pre and post-ban.  These findings will be reported later this year.

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