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Workers In No-Smoking Restaurants Show Lower Carcinogen Levels

Armen Hareyan's picture

The dangers of secondhand smoke could help clear the air about the value of no-smoking laws governing bars and eateries.

A new study compares the level of a tobacco-specific carcinogen in nonsmokers who work in restaurants that allow smoking with that of employees in restaurants that ban it.

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Restaurant workers exposed to tobacco smoke on the job were more likely to have a detectable level of NNK, a carcinogen implicated in the development of lung cancer, than those who worked in tobacco-free environments.

"There are no studies showing any safe level of exposure to this potent lung carcinogen," said lead author Michael Stark, Ph.D. "In addition to NNK, secondhand smoke contains more than 50 other carcinogens and a host of other toxic substances that cause lung cancer, various other cancers, heart disease and lung disease."

Stark is the principal investigator for the Multnomah County Health Department and Oregon Department of Human Services. The study appears online and in the August 2007 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke have about a 20 percent increase in the risk of lung cancer