Respiratory Health of Bartenders Improves Rapidly When Bars Become Smoke-free

Ban also potentially reduces risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease

CHICAGO -- Bartenders whose exposure to secondhand smoke was reduced by a new California law showed quick respiratory health improvement, according to an article in the December 9 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Mark D. Eisner, M.D., of the University of California at San Francisco, and colleagues report on the observable health benefits to bartenders from a new California law that prohibits smoking in bars. The law provides a smoke-free work environment for bartenders, a profession traditionally exposed to large amounts of secondhand smoke at their workplace. The study found that the bartenders were reporting improved respiratory health and had improved lung function less than two months after the smoking ban began.

As part of the study, 53 bartenders in San Francisco were interviewed before and after the smoking ban took effect. Thirty-nine (74 percent) bartenders reported respiratory symptoms (wheezing, shortness of breath, morning cough or phlegm production) before the smoking ban. Twenty-three (59 percent) of these reported being symptom-free after the smoking ban. Forty-one (77 percent) of the bartenders reported eye, nose or throat irritation at the beginning of the study. Thirty-two (78 percent) of these reported resolution of their symptoms after the smoking ban.

The self-reported exposure to secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), on the job declined from an average of 28 hours per week to an average of two hours per week for bartenders in the study. The authors note: "Despite the prohibition of smoking, 29 subjects (55 percent) continued to report some ETS exposure (greater than one hour per week) while working as bartenders."

The study also measured lung function using a spirometer, a test which measures the rate at which a patient exhales air from the lungs and the total volume exhaled. After adjusting for personal smoking habits and recent upper respiratory tract infections, the tests showed improvement after the smoking ban for the total volume of air breathed out (FVC) and the volume of air breathed out in the first second of the test (FEV1).

According to the authors: "Strong epidemiologic evidence links ETS exposure with lung cancer and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. As a result, ETS has been estimated as the third leading preventable cause of death." They continue: "Bar and tavern workers, in particular, are exposed to high ambient levels of ETS, reaching levels four to six times higher than in other workplaces. This high-level exposure is paralleled by an increased risk of lung cancer in bartenders, after controlling for personal smoking."

The authors note: "In addition to potentially reducing the long-term risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, workplace smoking prohibition appears to have immediate beneficial effects on adult respiratory health." The authors continue: "Our study ... helps confirm the adverse impact of ETS exposure on immediate respiratory health."

InfoImagination© 1988 -- All Rights Reserved