As New Orleans Marks 100 Days of Being Smoke-Free, Study Finds Air Pollution Levels Have Dropped 96 Percent in Bars and Casino

Hospitality Workers, Entertainers and Patrons Clearly Benefiting from Breathing Clean Air

Aug. 5 2015

NEW ORLEANS – As New Orleans celebrates 100 days of being smoke-free, a new study finds indoor air pollution levels have fallen dramatically in bars and the city’s casino since the smoke-free law was implemented on April 22, protecting the health of all workers, entertainers and patrons.

The level of fine particle air pollution fell by 96 percent in venues that had previously allowed smoking, and it was virtually eliminated in the casino, where there was a 99 percent reduction.

The study was conducted by nationally recognized indoor air quality researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. It used state-of-the-art air pollution monitors to measure the levels of fine particle air pollution in 13 bars and the one casino both before and after the smoke-free law took effect. According to the study, particles of this size (smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) are released in significant amounts from burning cigarettes and are easily inhaled deep into the lungs, causing a variety of adverse health effects, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease and death.

The study concludes that New Orleans’ smoke-free ordinance is protecting the health of New Orleans workers, entertainers, residents and visitors: "This study demonstrates that employees and patrons in New Orleans bars and casinos are currently not exposed to hazardous levels of air pollution resulting from indoor smoking. New Orleans’s smoke-free air ordinance … is a proven means to significantly reduce exposure to toxic tobacco smoke pollution, which will improve quality of life and health outcomes for New Orleans workers, entertainers, residents and visitors."

Supporters of the law, including many in the public health community, said it is working as intended to protect the health and right to breathe clean air of hospitality workers, entertainers and patrons in New Orleans.

"We've heard from so many people in our bars, restaurants and casino who say they feel better and can breathe easier now without the stress of knowing they are in an unhealthy environment," said Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell, the ordinance’s chief sponsor. “The air is definitely cleaner in New Orleans – and the city has made a very smooth transition to this improvement. This makes it clear that we did the right thing."

"The smoke-free law has always been about protecting people's health by creating healthier air for all to enjoy," said Tonia Moore, associate director, the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL). "This study demonstrates conclusively that the law is protecting the health of New Orleans hospitality workers, entertainers and patrons who were previously endangered by the harmful air pollutants in secondhand smoke. They and their families have to be thrilled that they have significantly reduced their exposure to the harmful health effects of secondhand smoke, including increased risks of cancer and heart disease."

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. The U.S. Surgeon General has found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, serious respiratory illnesses, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The Surgeon General also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year, there is no safe level of exposure, and only smoke-free laws provide effective protection.

Key findings of the study include:

  • In the 10 venues tested that previously permitted smoking, the average level of fine particle air pollution dropped by 96 percent after the smoke-free law took effect. Before the law, the pollution level was “hazardous” according to the U.S. EPA Air Quality Index. After the law, there was no smoking observed in these 10 locations and the pollution level ranked “good” on the EPA index.
  • Fine particle air pollution was virtually eliminated in the casino with a reduction of 99 percent.
  • Air pollution levels in the four smoke-free locations tested were moderately low before the law and remained low after the law.

"This study reinforces what we know to be true: Smoking is a source of indoor air pollution and New Orleans' comprehensive smoking ordinance is making the air in restaurants, bars and casinos safer for everyone to breathe," said TFL’s Moore. "I hope our city and state leaders will carefully consider these results and reject any efforts to weaken the law."

Read the full study

More About the Study:

  • The study was conducted in April and June 2015. In April 2015, before the smoke-free law took effect on April 22, indoor air quality was assessed in 13 bars and the one casino in New Orleans. These same venues were revisited in June. Researchers spent a minimum of 30 minutes in each venue.
  • Fine particle air pollution was measured using a TSI SidePak AM510 Personal Aerosol Monitor, which was used to unobtrusively sample and record the levels of respirable suspended particles in the air.
  • Support for this study was provided by the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on behalf of Smoke-Free NOLA.
  • The study analysis was conducted by nationally recognized indoor air quality researchers Mark Travers, PhD, MS, and Lisa Vogl, MPH, of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI). RPCI is America's first cancer center founded in 1898 by Dr. Roswell Park and the only upstate New York facility to hold the National Cancer Center designation of “comprehensive cancer center” and to serve as a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

 

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