Study Shows Dramatic Drop In Secondhand Smoke Exposure For New Yorkers

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Secondhand Smoke Exposure

New Yorkers are breathing cleaner air thanks to the state's Clean Indoor Air Act that took effect in July 2003.

The law, which banned smoking in all indoor areas, including restaurants and bars, has reduced non-smoking adults' exposure to tobacco smoke by almost half, according to the state Department of Health study published today in the "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report," a publication of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is the first time a scientific study has compared non-smokers' exposure to tobacco smoke before and after enactment of a clean indoor air law," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Given the 47 percent drop in non-smokers' exposure to secondhand smoke, this study proves that clean indoor air laws greatly benefit non-smokers and have the potential to avert disease and save lives. This is a great accomplishment for public health."

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"Since prior to the amended Clean Indoor Air Act most New Yorkers were already working in smoke-free workplaces, this study shows how important more casual exposures to smoke can be in restaurants and bars," said Ursula Bauer, PhD., Director of the New York State Tobacco Control Program. "Removing exposures from leisure activities like bowling and bingo and cleaning up the remaining work sites that still permitted smoking have cut in half New Yorkers' exposure to the toxins in tobacco smoke."

Research has shown that tobacco smoke from the burning end of a cigarette or exhaled from a smoker's lungs, known as secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke, causes many of the same diseases in non-smokers who inhale it as smoking causes in smokers. Nationally, secondhand smoke is estimated to kill 50,000 non-smokers a year. Even modest exposures to second-hand smoke have been shown to have adverse impacts. According to a 2006 Surgeon General's Report, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

The New York study tested saliva samples for cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine metabolism, which scientists can measure to determine a person's exposure to tobacco smoke. Saliva samples were obtained from more than 1,500 adult non-smokers living in New York State outside of New York City and Nassau County (both of which had enacted local smoking bans before the statewide ban). Samples were collected before the law went into effect and over the subsequent12 months. The study authors calculated average cotinine levels from samples collected before and after the law went into effect and found the levels fell from 0.078 nanograms per milliliter to 0.041 ng/ml.

The study notes that these substantial reductions in exposure to secondhand smoke would be expected to result in reductions in heart disease and lung cancer and have a positive health impact among non-smokers over time.
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