New Harvard Study: Healthier to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Smoke-Free Irish Pub

Pubs in Smoke-Free Ireland Have 91 Percent Lower Air Pollution Than Pubs in Cities Worldwide That Allow Workplace Smoking

Mar. 16 2006

Washington, DC — A new study being released today by the Harvard University School of Public Health and other researchers shows that it's healthier to celebrate St. Patrick's Day like the real Irish – in a smoke-free bar or pub.

The study measured air pollution levels in 128 Irish pubs in 15 countries, including in the United States and in Ireland, which in March 2004 became the first country to implement a nationwide law making all indoor workplaces smoke-free, including restaurants and bars. The study found that the average level of air pollution inside Ireland's smoke-free pubs was 91 percent lower than inside Irish pubs located in countries and cities that still permit workplace smoking.

In the United States, the study found that Irish pubs in smoke-free cities have 95 percent less air pollution than the pubs in U.S. cities that still allow workplace smoking (another way to look at it: the smoky Irish pubs in the U.S. had, on average, nearly 20 times more air pollution than the smoke-free pubs).

"This study shows that a smoke-free Irish pub is both more Irish and more healthy, on St. Patrick's Day and every other day," said Danny McGoldrick, Vice President for Research at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It's also a serious reminder that secondhand smoke exposes us to more than 4,000 chemicals that cause cancer, heart disease and other health problems. No one should have to endure these serious health risks in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out. We hope this study helps to accelerate the growing movement to enact strong smoke-free laws that protect everyone's right to breathe clean air."

In the United States, twelve states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico have now enacted smoke-free workplace laws that include restaurants and bars. These states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington (the Montana and Utah laws extend to bars in 2009, while the DC law does so on January 2, 2007). Two other states – Florida and Idaho – have smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars. Hundreds of cities and counties across the U.S. have also taken action, as have whole countries including Ireland, England (effective 2007), Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy and Uruguay.

The Irish pub study was conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health; the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY; and several organizations in Ireland. The researchers used state-of-the-art air monitors to measure the levels of fine particle air pollution, of which secondhand smoke is a major source. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that these fine particles can penetrate deep into human lungs, causing serious lung, heart and other health conditions.

Conducted between January 21, 2004 and March 10, 2006, the study included 41 smoke-free Irish pubs in Ireland, the U.S. and Canada and 87 smoking-permitted Irish pubs located in Armenia, Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Greece, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Poland, Romania, the U.S. and England. Irish pubs were defined as those that served Irish beer on tap and had an Irish name (e.g. Murphy's, O'Donnell's) or a visible statement that the venue was an Irish pub.

In the U.S., smoke-free cities surveyed include Hartford, CT; Bloomington, IN; Bethesda, MD; Boston, MA; Buffalo and New York City, NY; Providence, RI; Austin, TX; and Appleton, WI.

U.S. cities in which pub smoking was still allowed at the time of the study were Phoenix, AZ; Denver, CO; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Indianapolis, IN; Louisville, KY; Baltimore, MD; St. Paul, MN; Manchester, NH; Hoboken, NJ; Santa Fe, NM; Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, NC; Lakewood, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Charleston, SC; Galveston and Houston, TX; Arlington, VA; and Washington, DC (St. Paul, New Jersey and Washington, DC have since passed smoke-free laws that will cover restaurants and bars and are in various stages of implementation).

While pubs in all smoke-free U.S. cities recorded significantly lower levels of air pollution than those in smoking-permitted cities, one Irish pub in Hartford, CT and one Irish pub in Providence, RI had the lowest air pollution levels.

Among U.S. cities, the five highest average levels of air pollution were recorded in pubs in: Hoboken, NJ; Lakewood, OH; Manchester, NH; Indianapolis, IN and Galveston, TX. A complete list of air pollution levels inside pubs in cities in the U.S. and around the world is available in the report, which can be found online at www.hsph.harvard.edu.

The study also noted that, contrary to the claims of opponents of smoke-free laws, Ireland's smoke-free law has had no negative impact on restaurant and pub business and business has actually improved since the smoke-free law was implemented in March 2004. Ireland's Central Statistics Office (www.cso.ie) recently reported increases in the volume of bar sales, hospitality employment and visitors to Ireland between 2004 and 2005.

"This study demonstrates that national and local smoking policies can dramatically improve indoor air quality," said Greg Connolly, the study's lead researcher and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. "There are no safe limits to secondhand smoke, and simply segregating smokers and non-smokers in indoor spaces is of no use. Ireland has shown the way for nations to protect their citizens from a preventable cause of disease and death."

Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known carcinogens, and is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, and other serious respiratory illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is responsible for more than 38,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Because of the risk that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger heart attacks, the CDC has advised persons with heart disease to avoid settings where smoking is allowed. Children are especially vulnerable to other people's smoke, suffering more bronchitis, asthma and ear infections as a result.

The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. Dozens of studies and hard economic data have shown that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and sometimes have a positive impact. Some of the strongest evidence comes from New York City, where a report found that, in the year after the city's comprehensive smoke-free law took effect March 30, 2003, business receipts for restaurants and bars increased, employment rose, the number of liquor licenses increased, virtually all establishments are complying with the law, and the vast majority of New Yorkers support the law. There is also growing evidence that smoke-free laws can save money. A study released in August 2005 by the Society of Actuaries found that secondhand smoke costs our country $10 billion a year in health care bills, lost wages and other costs.

 

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