GASP Education Center


Secondhand Smoke Risks in Outdoor Settings





Stanford University researchers in 2007 conducted the first in-depth study on how smoking affects air quality at sidewalk cafe\'s, park benches and other outdoor locations. The Stanford researchers concluded that a non-smoker sitting a few feet downwind from a smoldering cigarette is likely to be exposed to substantial levels of contaminated air for brief periods of time, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association (JAWMA).




"Some folks have expressed the opinion that exposure to outdoor tobacco smoke is insignificant, because it dissipates quickly into the air," said Neil Klepeis, assistant professor (consulting) of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and lead author of the study. "But our findings show that a person sitting or standing next to a smoker outdoors can breathe in wisps of smoke that are many times more concentrated than normal background air pollution levels."

Unlike indoor tobacco smoke, which can persist for hours, the researchers found that outdoor smoke disappears rapidly when a cigarette is extinguished. "Our data also show that if you move about six feet away from an outdoor smoker, your exposure levels are much lower," Klepeis added.

In the study, the researchers used portable electronic monitors to make precise measurements of toxic airborne particles emitted from cigarettes at 10 sites near the Stanford campus.



 



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