Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Is Your Airport’s “Designated Smoking Area” a Hazard to Your Health?

by Mike Shoemaker, BHA, RRT-NPS, AE-C


Researchers warn that airports with “designated smoking areas” still pose a significant health risk for nonsmoking travelers and airport employees. Secondhand smoke exposure can cause illness and even death in nonsmoking adults and children.

In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers confirmed that the best way to eliminate indoor secondhand smoke exposure is to eliminate all indoor smoking; having a smoking area is not good enough. The air quality in airports with designated smoking sections was compared to that of smoke-free airports; this was accomplished by measuring the amount of respirable (breathable) suspended particles, or “RSPs,” in the air. The research showed that for airports with smoking areas:

  • The level of particles in the air in the designated smoking areas was 16 times the average level in nonsmoking areas, but 23 times the average level in the smoke-free airports.
  • In the areas adjacent to the smoking section, RSP levels were still four times higher than those seen in the nonsmoking areas. This simply means that the closer one is to the smoking area, the more secondhand exposure he or she is likely to encounter.
  • In those same areas—adjacent to the smoking area—levels were five times that of those seen in the smoke-free airports.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family? First, use airports that are smoke-free if you possibly can. Next, if your local airport is not smoke-free, contact your state or local representatives, as well as airport authorities, to voice your concern about involuntary secondhand smoke exposure. Finally, if you must travel through an airport that is not smoke-free, stay as far away from the smoking areas as possible; the closer you get, the greater your smoke exposure.

We are fortunate to live in a world where we can travel, see new places, experience new things, and greet people around the globe. Let’s do everything we can to protect our health while we are at it!

Safe travels!

To learn more about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure, click here.

To read the early release of the CDC study, click here.

Mike Shoemaker is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care from Anderson, SC, where he serves as manager of respiratory care services at AnMed Health Women’s and Children’s Hospital and site coordinator for the ASME Certified Asthmania Academy.

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