Smoking ban cuts air pollution in Irish pubs by 83%

In collaboration with the Press Association

The ban on smoking in the workplace in Ireland has led to an 80 per cent decrease in airborne benzene - a known cancer-causing chemical - in public houses and an improvement in the respiratory health of bar workers, research has shown. Introduced in March 2004, the ban has also brought about an 83 per cent reduction in overall air pollution in pubs, providing significant health benefits for both staff and customers. A one-year follow-up study, which is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, examined the effect of the smoking ban in 42 Dublin pubs among 73 male bar staff members, whose lung function was tested both before and one year after the ban.

Prior to the ban, workers reported being exposed to environmental tobacco smoke for over 40 hours per week, but this fell to around 25 minutes per week after the ban, representing a 99 per cent decrease in exposure. They also demonstrated dramatically improved lung function and significant improvements in cough and phlegm production. Researcher Dr Luke Clancy, who is director of the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society in Dublin, commented: "These results confirm that the approach of a total ban on smoking in the workplace is successful in reducing the exposure of workers to particles.

"We have previously shown that a reduction of particle levels in ambient air resulted in marked health benefits."

Fiona Godfrey, EU policy adviser at the European Respiratory Society in Brussels, commented on the study in a separate editorial in the journal, saying that it "adds to the evidence from other studies that ? comprehensive smoking bans in bars dramatically reduce the levels of fine-particulate matter, chemicals and gases in the air and improve bar workers' health".

Ms Godfrey estimated that between five million and ten million premature deaths from smoking could be prevented if all European countries were to adopt a similar policy.