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Hotels You Should Avoid While Traveling on Vacation This Summer

Tim Boyer's picture
Hotels you should avoid

A recent article published in the journal of Tobacco Control tells us that while traveling this summer, non-smoking vacationers should make sure that their overnight stays are held in only those hotels that have a complete ban on smoking. According to their study’s results, instituting only a partial ban on smoking in hotels by providing both smoking and non-smoking rooms is ineffective in protecting non-smoking guests from exposure to tobacco smoke and tobacco-specific carcinogens.

While it is common knowledge that second hand smoke exposure poses a significant health risk, few realize that accumulating scientific evidence is pointing a nicotine stained finger at third hand smoke exposure as well. Third hand smoke exposure is the personal physical contact with nicotine contaminated surfaces and breathing in of air that carries nicotine byproducts including smoking-related carcinogens on dust particles.

Due to the chemical nature of nicotine, residue from smoking adheres strongly to many surfaces making decontamination during normal hotel room cleaning nearly impossible. As such, many hotels attempt to accommodate non-smoking guests with rooms that ban smoking. However, as any non-smoking traveler can attest to from experience, non-smoking rooms still carry an odor of nicotine which often is felt as a burning sensation in the throat of a non-smoker.

According to growing scientific evidence from health experts, your throat is the canary in the mine shaft that is warning you that you are being exposed to toxic substances.

So just how toxic is a non-smoking hotel room in a hotel that has both smoking and non-smoking rooms? According to researchers in their study—more than most people think.

In the study, researchers compared the rooms of 10 hotels in California that enforced a complete ban on smoking with the rooms of 30 hotels that had a partial ban on smoking. The hotels ranged from budget type to mid-level comfort type hotels.

Participants in the study consisted of non-smokers who stayed overnight in the rooms of both types of hotels, who were subsequently tested for nicotine residue on their hands, and their urine analyzed for nicotine and cancer-causing smoking byproducts.

What the researchers discovered was that participants who stayed in smoke-free rooms of hotels that have a partial ban on smoking were exposed to significant levels of nicotine and smoking related cancer-causing agents from just normal physical contact with contaminated surfaces and breathing in the surrounding hotel air.

Analysis of finger wipes and urine samples reveled that non-smokers who stayed in hotels with partial smoking bans had higher levels of finger nicotine and urinary cotinine (a metabolic byproduct of nicotine) than those staying in hotels with a total ban on smoking.

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Other results of the study include:

• Surface nicotine and air 3EP (3-ethynylpyridine) levels were higher in both non-smoking and smoking rooms of hotels operating partial bans in comparison to hotels with a complete ban on smoking.

• Surface nicotine levels were more than twice as high in non-smoking rooms of hotels with partial bans compared to those with complete bans.

• Air levels of 3EP in non-smoking rooms of hotels with partial bans were more than 7 times as high as those with complete bans.

• Air nicotine levels measured 40% higher in non-smoking rooms of hotels operating partial smoking bans compared to those operating total bans.

• Hallway surfaces outside smoking rooms demonstrated higher nicotine levels than hallway surfaces outside non-smoking rooms.

According to the authors of the study, staying overnight in a smoking room is equivalent to being exposed to second hand smoke:

"Our findings demonstrate that some non-smoking guest rooms in smoking hotels are as polluted with [third hand smoke] as are some smoking rooms…moreover, non-smoking guests staying in smoking rooms may be exposed to tobacco smoke pollutants at levels found among non-smokers exposed to second hand smoke."

The researchers concluded that their findings suggest that smoke-free exemptions in hotels that offer both smoking and non-smoking rooms is a practice that needs to be abandoned as they are ineffective in protecting non-smoking guests from exposure to tobacco smoke and tobacco-specific carcinogens.

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: “Thirdhand smoke and exposure in California hotels: non-smoking rooms fail to protect non-smoking hotel guests from tobacco smoke exposure” Tobacco Control doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050824; Georg E. Matt et al.