Study Shows Improved Air Quality In Charleston Area Smoke-free Businesses

Vicky Agnew
MUSC Hollings Cancer Center

Dan Carrigan
SC African American Tobacco Control Network

July 29, 2008

Study Shows Improved Air Quality In Charleston Area Smoke-free Businesses

Air Pollution Decreased 94 Percent across Tested Venues in Charleston and Mount Pleasant

CHARLESTON -- New findings from a study conducted by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center (HCC) revealed significantly improved air quality in bars and restaurants in Charleston and Mount Pleasant where smoke-free ordinances were implemented last year.

With a 94 percent reduction in air pollution, the air quality in the places included in the study fell well within safe limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said HCC Cancer Control Specialist Matthew Carpenter, PhD, who led the study.

"We know that hospitality employees are exposed to secondhand smoke, which is an established cause of lung cancer," Carpenter said. "These results show that smoke-free legislation effectively reduces exposure and that such legislation protects hospitality employees from a known cancer risk," Carpenter said.

The study began in 2006 when the researchers analyzed air quality in 23 venues that allowed smoking in Charleston and 11 in Mount Pleasant. These same venues were tested again in 2008 following passage of local smoke-free ordinances. The City of Charleston established a smoke-free ordinance in public places in July 2007; the Town of Mount Pleasant followed with a similar ordinance in September 2007.

The study also examined air quality in 10 establishments in North Charleston, which does not have a smoke-free ordinance, and found that air pollution there remains more than three times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe.

"Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, especially at work," said Dianne Wilson of the South Carolina African American Tobacco Control Network, who funded the study. "These tests show that workers protected by smoke-free ordinances have a tremendous health advantage over workers in cities that have failed to pass protective measures."

The study's findings were independently reviewed by Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY.

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