2010 Feb. 13: OK: Oklahoma restaurants have high levels of cigarette smoke particulates

Study highlights smoke risk in Oklahoma restaurants
Report finds special ventilation doesn’t reduce threat for restaurant, bar workers

BY SUSAN SIMPSON The Oklahoman    Comments Comment on this article4

Published: February 13, 2010

Tobacco smoke pollution in Oklahoma City-area restaurants and bars is extremely hazardous and far exceeds Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards, according to a report released by the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center at the OU Cancer Institute.


Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City is among restaurants that created smoking rooms to comply with Oklahoma law. But a new report suggests smoking rooms provide little protection for workers or customers. Photo by David McDaniel, Oklahoman Archive

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The center looked at tobacco smoke levels in 67 Oklahoma City-area restaurant smoking rooms and bars, and found that even restaurants with smoke ventilators had pollution levels harmful to workers and patrons.

The smoke was measured as particulate pollution, which the EPA ranks as hazardous at levels of 151-250 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The particulate level averaged 380 micrograms in restaurant smoking rooms tested by the center, and 655 micrograms in bars.

Dr. Robert McCaffree, co-director of the tobacco center, said researchers knew secondhand smoke was hazardous, but were surprised that pollution levels were so high.

Ventilators don’t offer much protection, he said. He encouraged all restaurants and bars to go smoke-free.

"It places the workers at great risk,” he said. "To ignore the health of so many people, including the workers and the patrons, is really irresponsible.”

Working an eight-hour shift in a smoky bar is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes, Mc-Caffree said.

"These levels are exceptionally high and not healthy for the employees and patrons exposed to particles found in secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Heather Basara, an industrial hygienist and lead investigator on the research.

McCaffree said secondhand smoke exposure contributes to about 700 deaths each year in Oklahoma, mostly from heart disease.

Calls seeking comment from the Oklahoma Restaurant Association were not returned Friday.

State health officials want to completely ban smoking in workplaces by repealing a law that took effect in 2003 allowing restaurants to build separate smoking rooms with special ventilation systems.

"It is important to make that adjustment,” said Bob Miner, clean indoor air coordinator for the state Health Department. "It will clearly benefit the health of Oklahomans.”

Read more: http://newsok.com/study-highlights-smoke-risk/article/3439275#ixzz0fRIEXZd9

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