Non-smoking hotel rooms expose guests to health dangers
When booking a hotel room, you may want to consider whether the property is a completely smoke-free hotel versus one that has instituted a partial smoking ban with designated non-smoking rooms. The difference, according to a May study published in the journal Tobacco Control, is that non-smoking rooms may not protect guests who don’t smoke from so-called thirdhand tobacco smoke exposure.
Researchers at San Diego State University analyzed a random sample of mid-range hotels in San Diego. They examined the surfaces and air quality of rooms for evidence of tobacco smoke pollution (nicotine and 3EP or 3-ethenylpyridine, a chemical marker for environmental tobacco smoke), also known as thirdhand smoke. Ten hotels in the sample had a total ban of smoking, while 30 had designated non-smoking rooms.
Non-smokers who spent the night at any of the hotels in the sample provided urine and finger-wipe samples to determine their exposure to nicotine and a cancer-causing agent, known as NKK, found specifically in tobacco smoke.
Surface nicotine and air 3EP levels were higher in both non-smoking and smoking rooms of hotels with partial smoking bans. Findings also revealed that surface and air nicotine levels in rooms where previous guests had smoked were 35 and 22 times higher than those of hotel rooms with a total smoking ban.
Surface nicotine levels were more than twice as high in non-smoking hotel rooms with partial bans than those of smoke-free hotels, and air 3EP levels were more than seven times as high.
Air nicotine levels in smoking rooms were significantly higher than in non-smoking rooms; and they were also 40 percent higher in non-smoking rooms in non-smoking hotels than those of smoke-free hotels.
“Our findings demonstrate that some non-smoking guest rooms in smoking hotels are as polluted with [thirdhand smoke] as are some smoking rooms,” said study author, Georg Matt, in a statement.
“Moreover, non-smoking guests staying in smoking rooms may be exposed to tobacco smoke pollutants at levels found among non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke,” said Matt.
Matt also advised new hotels to operate total smoking bans to protect their employees as well as their guests.
Few countries have adopted a smoking ban that includes hotels, said the study’s authors, but their findings, “suggest that it is time to abandon smoke-free exemptions for hotels.”
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