Research released this week supports the House of Commons vote to make all workplaces smoke free

A team of researchers visited 64 pubs across the north west of England. They measured air quality using a portable monitor for at least 30 minutes in an area of the pub where smoking was allowed.

They found very poor air quality with high levels of particles (PM2.5), particularly in pubs serving more deprived populations. These particles are breathed into the lungs and have been associated with harm to health in humans.

There is no UK air quality standard for PM2.5 particles. However, the average particle levels observed, particularly in pubs serving deprived populations, were well above levels which the US Environmental Protection Agency labels as ‘very unhealthy’ and ‘hazardous’. Average levels of particles in the pubs were about ten times higher than those typically found next to heavily trafficked roads in the UK and in four pubs were about 40 times higher.

Dr Richard Edwards, who carried out the research at the University of Manchester, commented: “We found very poor air quality in these pubs. This research supports the recent House of Commons vote to make all workplaces in England, including pubs and bars, smoke-free - overturning the government’s original proposals to exempt many pubs.

“This research confirms that workers and customers in pubs are heavily exposed to pollution from passive smoking, particularly in pubs in more deprived areas. The research also shows that making workplaces smoke free will help tackle the huge burden of ill health caused by smoking, particularly among deprived populations who tend to smoke more.”

The research was carried out by a team based at the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and Primary Care Trusts in Manchester, Bury Burnley, and Blackburn and Darwen. The report, ‘Levels of second hand smoke in pubs and bars by deprivation and food-serving status: a cross-sectional study from North West England’, has been published in the online journal BMC Public Health.

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