Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A passive smoker's big night out

An article in the Evening Standard today (sorry, not on their website as yet) shows how much smoke you breathe in during a night in the pub. Three people were tested before and after their session. On average, their cotinine levels rose by 6.7 nanograms per litre on average, as opposed to a rise of about 10 nanograms per litre after smoking a cigarette. Carbon monoxide levels rose by 3.6 parts per million over the night on average, compared to 6-10 ppm for smoking a single cigarette.

What can we conclude? Well, we can't conclude, as the writer does, that is all terrible and deadly. In fact, it shows just how little smoke we breathe in. Basically, less than the equivalent of one cigarette. And most people wouldn't go to the pub more than a couple of times a week. So, there may be a rise in cancer and heart disease rates as a result - but it is likely to be small.

The association between smoking and lung cancer was first pointed out in the 1950s when people smoking much stronger cigarettes usually without filters, more often, with less ventilation. Oh, the joy of the top deck of the average bus in winter: windows shut, the intrepid passenger walked upstairs into a cloud of smoke. How much lower will exposure be today?

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