Second-hand smoke 'drifts' indoors

FRESH AIR?: Matterhorn duty manager Kim O'Leary in the outdoor smoking area.
FRESH AIR?: Matterhorn duty manager Kim O'Leary in the outdoor smoking area.

Even sitting indoors in a smokefree pub may not protect you from second-hand smoke.

Seven years after laws came into force banning smoking inside bars, Wellington researchers have found that the air quality inside pubs is being affected by "drift" from legal semi-enclosed outdoor smoking areas.

Further regulations may be needed to protect people indoors, they say.

The team of researchers from Otago University, Wellington, visited seven city bars on three separate occasions and measured particulate levels – one way to detect second-hand smoke – in outdoor areas, inside the bar close to the outdoor area, and further inside.

All outdoor measurements, and nearly all indoor measurements, were greater than World Health Organisation guidelines for air quality. Even deep inside the pub, average particulate readings were twice the maximum level.

When there was constant access between the indoor and outdoor areas – for example, a door left open – inside levels were much higher.

The group defined semi-enclosed outdoor areas as those with three walls, or four walls but no roof.

Lead author Professor Richard Edwards said it was worrying that even outdoor areas that met legal requirements were contaminating indoor areas.

"The most important finding is that you can get drift from those semi-enclosed outdoor areas to areas much further inside the pub."

Bar staff were most likely to suffer from the exposure, especially at pubs that had bars in their outdoor areas, Dr Edwards said. He urged policymakers to consider tightening the regulations for outdoor areas. That could include ensuring that connecting doors and windows be kept shut as much as possible. "You might also change the criteria for the degree of enclosure that's allowed."

Places such as Queensland had laws requiring at least 50 per cent of outdoor seating in pubs to be smoke-free, he said.

"Lots of non-smokers do like to go outside on a nice day, so it becomes a question of whether part of that area should be smoke-free."

Although the researchers would not identify which bars they tested, they confirmed that courtyards such as Matterhorn's met the testing criteria.

Matterhorn general manager Zach Twentyman said the doors to the courtyard were opened during gigs but were otherwise kept closed.

None of his staff had complained about drifting smoke or asked not to work in the outdoor bar. "To be honest, most of them smoke."

The Dominion Post