The study reveals bartenders showed significant improvement in respiratory symptoms and lung function 2 months after Scotland banned smoking in enclosed public places in March.
Daniel Menzies, M.B.Ch.B., and other researchers who participated in the study concluded that the number of workers with symptoms related to second-hand smoke decreased by 26 percent in the first month after legislation was introduced in Scotland. Within 2 months, the number had fallen by 32 percent.
The researchers also found improvement in certain measurements of lung function and reductions in cotinine (metabolized nicotine) levels. Asthmatic bar workers had less airway inflammation and an increase in quality-of-life scores, according to the study.
Bartenders are exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke as part of their occupation. But as the harmful effects of secondhand smoke have become increasingly recognized, European countries and the United States are attempting to limit the health risks by prohibiting smoking in public places.
A 2006 report by the U.S. surgeon general highlighted the causal relationship between secondhand smoke and premature death. Other studies have shown that for patients with preexisting respiratory conditions such as asthma, secondhand smoke can lead to poorer disease control and more frequent hospital admission.
Eisner: "The time has come to clear the air"
In an accompanying editorial, Mark Eisner, M.D., MPH, of the University of California-San Francisco, asserts that many of the arguments made against banning smoking in public places are "fallacious."
According to Eisner, the most common arguments are that laws preventing smoking in bars will be ineffective and cause bars and restaurants to lose money.
To rebut these arguments, Eisner notes that compliance with a smoking ban in California has been high, with 99 percent of bars in restaurants adhering to the law and 76 percent of freestanding bars adhering to the law. He said compliance has been reported to be high in Boston, Ireland and New Zealand as well.
Eisner also points out that studies show that bars, restaurants and hotels do not lose revenue after becoming smoke-free and that some establishes have seen their income increase.
"Mandating smoke-free workplaces will decrease secondhand smoke exposure and will improve health, prevent chronic disease and extend lifespan," Eisner wrote. " … The time has come to clear the air."