Involuntary Smoking in the Restaurant Workplace - a Review of Employee Exposure and Health Effects

Siegel M. University of California, Berkeley/University of California. Journal of the American Medical Association. 28 July 1993; 270(4): 490-493.

Objective: To determine the relative exposure to environmental tobacco smoke for bar and restaurant employees compared with office employees and with nonsmokers exposed in the home (part 1) and to determine whether this exposure is contributing to an elevated lung cancer risk in these employees (part 2).

Data Sources: MEDLINE and bibliographies from identified publications.

Study Selection: In part 1, published studies of indoor air quality were included if they reported a mean concentration of carbon monoxide, nicotine, or particulate matter from measurements taken in one or more bars, restaurants, offices, or residences with at least one smoker. In part 2, published epidemiologic studies that reported a risk estimate for lung cancer incidence or mortality in food-service workers were included if they controlled, directly or indirectly, for active smoking.

Data Extraction: In part 1, a weighted average of the mean concentration of carbon monoxide, nicotine, and respirable suspended particulates reported in studies was calculated for bars, restaurants, offices, and residences. In part 2, the relative lung cancer risk for food-service workers compared with that for the general population was examined in the six identified studies.

Data Synthesis: Levels of environmental tobacco smoke in restaurants were approximately 1.6 to 2.0 times higher than in office workplaces of other businesses and 1.5 times higher than in residences with at least one smoker. Levels in bars were 3.9 to 6.1 times higher than in offices and 4.4 to 4.5 times higher than in residences. The epidemiologic evidence suggested that there may be a 50% increase in lung cancer risk among food-service workers that is in part attributable to tobacco smoke exposure in the workplace.

Conclusions: Environmental tobacco smoke is a significant occupational health hazard for food-service workers. To protect these workers, smoking in bars and restaurants should be prohibited.