Public smoking rooms head for extinction

Thirdhand smoke absorbs in carpets and furniture, does not dissipate, study shows

Smoking (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The Health Ministry intends to bar all smoking rooms in the country, The Jerusalem Post learned on Sunday, as well as to ban smoking in empty buses where only the driver and no passengers are present.
The policy comes in response to the article “Thirdhand Smoke: State of the Science and A Call for Policy Expansion,” published in the March-April issue of the journal Public Health Reports. The six-page study was written by public health experts at universities in California and Texas.
Public health chief Prof. Itamar Grotto said: “Thirdhand smoking is a known scientific concept that refers to toxins [including carcinogens] from tobacco smoking that persist even after the smoking ended and the fumes dissipated.
The poisons are absorbed in clothing, upholstery, hair, carpets and so on, and dissipate very slowly.”
The article noted toxins are difficult to remove using “traditional cleaning methods” such as vacuuming homes and wiping down car dashboards.
The poison “adsorbs to indoor surfaces due in part to [its] ability to permeate all parts of enclosed environments such as dust and air, porous building materials, doors, cabinets, curtains, furniture/ upholstery, bedding/ pillows/mattresses, clothing materials and carpets.”
Grotto said the ministry “recognizes the concept, and one of the principles in legislation on this matter is to prevent such exposure as much as possible. Thus the trend is to cancel smoking rooms.”
Amos Hausner, head of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, commented that no-smoking hotel rooms are unavailable in Israel.
“In US hotel chains, if you’re seen smoking in a hotel, you can be kicked out of your room and fined $250 for cleaning it up. Israel has declared some no-smoking rooms in hotels, but there are no laws and no enforcement.”
One can never be sure smoking never occurred in such a room, and when the hotel is fully booked, you can count on the rules being ignored, Hausner said. “Eighty percent of hotel guests prefer no-smoking hotel rooms, but there are no signs designating them as such. It is time for legislation to intervene on this issue.”
Hausner added that within three years of smoking rooms being banned in Ireland, France and Italy, the national rate of heart attacks dropped by 17% to 20% without any other interventions.
He added that illegal smoking at Jerusalem’s light rail stations spreads thirdhand tobacco toxins adhering to street furniture, notwithstanding that the stations are outdoors.
Smoking rooms have been prohibited abroad for the last 15 years, said Hausner, thus putting Israel way behind the norm.
“When I go to international meetings, it is pointed out to me that Israel’s permission to allow smoking rooms in public buildings is obsolete.
Thus when the ministry, merely by getting approval from the Knesset’s Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee, finally does bar smoking rooms, we will join the community of advanced nations.”