The growing body of evidence
that indicates that second hand smoke is a serious health risk has led to the enactment of a number of state- and nation-wide bans on smoking in public places. Outside of cohabitating with a smoker, work, especially work in restaurants and bars, appears to be the main point of contact with smoke for non-smokers. Studies that tracked the health of such workers before and after such bans indicated that bar workers experienced a general increase in lung health and reduction in irritation in the eyes and throats after the bans went into effect. A new study
of bar workers in Scotland now shows that the improvements are almost immediate, as signs of better health were apparent within one month of the ban.
The study relied on data from 77 bar workers, who completed questionnaires and had blood and lung tests both a month before, and one and two months after the ban went into effect. Workplace exposure appears to be a major contributor; measurements of a nicotine byproduct in the blood dropped by almost 40 percent following the ban. A further indication of the significance of workplace smoking comes from the fact that there was effectively no difference in the levels between those who did and did not live with smokers. The number reporting respiratory symptoms dropped from about 80 percent to below half by two months. Lung capacity went up about 8 percent, while indications of systemic inflammation dropped by about the same amount. All of this is good news for the barkeeps—as the authors put it, "average employees had been working in a bar for more than 9 years, but improvements in health were evident only 1 month after the introduction of a smoke-free policy."
The 9 year figure actually highlights a potential limitation of the study: many bar workers are employed transiently, leading to a high dropout rate from even a three-month study like this. It's possible that the longer-term workers were in worse shape to start, leaving them with more room for improvement. It's also notable that nicotine levels still hadn't dropped to the levels present in non-smokers, so there may also be residual exposure for these workers. Still, there's no way to view the obvious improvements as anything but a good thing for these workers. The Journal of the American Medical Association, where this study appeared, ran an editorial
in the same issue that argues that this and other studies have made a clear case for workplace bans. Source.
So, the smoking ban has been in effect for roughly a year now. Those who work in bars or clubs, have you noticed that you are healthier or feel better? How about non-smokers or smokers who visit businesses where there used to be smoking? I've heard from some
of my smoking friends that they don't smoke as much with the smoking ban and feel better after a night out than they used to.