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Ventilation technology is among the most fiercely debated issues in the smoke-free public places and workplaces debate. Ventilation technology is advocated by the tobacco industry and hospitality organizations as an alternative to either 100% smoking bans or smoking regulations which allow for designated smoking rooms (DSRs). DSRs are not to be confused with ventilation. Ventilation refers to directional airflow occurring in public places and workplaces which allow unenclosed smoking and non-smoking sections. DSRs are separately enclosed, separately ventilated rooms within a particular establishment. For more information on DSRs, and why they are problematic, click here.

The "ventilation solution" is a tobacco industry sponsored strategy specifically designed to prevent smoking regulations in public places and workplaces. Some hospitality organizations have also embraced ventilation technology as a viable alternative, and in some cases have allied themselves with the tobacco industry in coordinated lobbying efforts at the municipal and provincial levels.

In this section, we provide information on the following topics:

Americans for Non-Smokers' Rights has prepared an excellent overview of ventilation as a tobacco industry-sponsored strategy. To access the overview, please click here.

How do we know ventilation is a tobacco industry sponsored strategy?

The tobacco industry is well aware that eliminating second-hand smoke from workplaces and public places is one of the most effective ways to denormalize use of its products and reduce consumption among smokers, especially among those trying to quit. If the number of places where smoking is permitted decreases, there is a corresponding decrease in the amount people smoke, with a negative impact on cigarette sales.

This was identified as early as 1978 in a study measuring public attitudes on smoking, conducted for the U.S. Tobacco Institute by the Roper Organization. The study found that the fear among non-smokers of inhaling second-hand smoke had increased sharply, and was a finding that represented "the most dangerous development to the viability of the tobacco industry that has yet occurred."

Twenty-four years later, the exact impact of smoking bans was still tightly monitored. An internal Philip Morris memo, dated 21 January 1992 states:

"Total prohibition of smoking in the workplace strongly affects industry volume. Smokers facing these restrictions consume 11%-15% less than average and quit at a ratio that is 84% higher than average."


"Milder workplace restrictions, such as smoking in designated areas, have much less impact on quitting rates and very little effect on consumption."

And finally…

"If smoking were banned in all workplaces, the industry's average consumption would decline 8.7%-10.1% from 1991 levels and the quitting rate would increase 74%."

Today, the importance of advocating the ventilation solution and building coalitions with hospitality organizations opposed to smoking bans remains an industry priority. In the past, the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers' Council (CTMC) has been the active body in this regard.

In a March 20, 1998 CTMC memo addressed with the subject heading, "Ventilation Alternative to Smoking Bans", the CTMC's David Small relates to his recipient:

"For your information, please find attached Proposal for a Credible and Sustainable Indoor Air Policy: The Ventilation Option which our allies in the hospitality industry will be proposing in both Mississauga and Toronto along with expertise from Consumers Gas. We also believe it will be an option to the WCB [Workers' Compensation Board] rules in B.C.

The proposal was developed by a subcommittee of Courtesy of Choice under the direction of Mary Trudelle in Toronto with input from the Ontario Restaurant Association and the Hotel Association of Canada."

This memo not only acknowledges that ventilation campaign strategies are a major component of tobacco industry efforts to prevent the elimination of second-hand smoke from workplaces and public places, but it draws a clear connection between the Courtesy of Choice program, the Ontario Restaurant Association (now the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association), and the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC). The HAC operates the Courtesy of Choice ventilation program and provides funding from the CTMC for ventilation projects. The CTMC has funded the ventilation campaigns of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association.

A recent study from the U.S. describes how the tobacco industry used the "accommodation" message to launch an aggressive an effective worldwide campaign to recruit hospitality associations, such as restaurants, to serve as the tobacco industry’s stand-in for fighting against smoke-free environments:

Tobacco industry manipulation of the hospitality industry to maintain smoking in public places. Dealove, J.V et al. Tobacco Control. 2002; 11:94-104.

Tobacco industry efforts to present ventilation as an alternative to smoke-free environments in North America. Drope, J, Bialous, SA and Glantz, S. Tobacco Control. 2004; 13(Suppl 1): i41-i47.

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Courtesy of Choice

The HAC is an affiliate of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IR & RA). The IR & RA actively promotes and defends the interests of the hotel and restaurant industry worldwide. It also officially promotes the Courtesy of Choice program, which is in turn actively promoted by its member, the HAC. Philip Morris promotes a similar program, called Options.

According to the Courtesy of Choice web site, the program "accommodates the preferences of individuals by offering both smoking and non-smoking areas in the spirit of conviviality and mutual respect." As identified in the 20 March 1998 CTMC memo above, the Courtesy of Choice program is clearly a program supported by the industry in their efforts to subvert smoking bans. Moreover, there is no scientific basis to the assertion that "accommodation" is a safe solution.

In a June 13, 2000 CBC radio interview CTMC Vice President for Western Canada, Dave Laundy, confirmed that the HAC had been receiving approximately $800,000/year from the CTMC for several years to promote Courtesy of Choice. It was later revealed that the HAC had received a total $3.2 million from 1997-2000 ($800,000/year) for the Courtesy of Choice program (Heidemann D. Who's funding the fight against the smoking ban in B.C.? BCTV. June 15, 2000).

The HAC supported the Black Dog Pub ventilation pilot project that was conducted in a Scarborough, Ontario bar during the City of Toronto's smoke-free bylaw campaign. The results of the study were published in the December 2001 issue of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, in an article entitled, Environmental Tobacco Smoke in the Non-smoking Section of a Restaurant: A Case Study. The main author of the study is Roger Jenkins, a well-known U.S. tobacco industry consultant. For more information on the Black Dog Pub ventilation pilot project and the links between Canadian tobacco companies and specific groups in the hospitality industry, go to the "Ventilation Solution" in Ontario.

Here are other CTMC memos which exposed the tobacco industry's active interest in promoting Courtesy of Choice among the hospitality industry in Canada:

PUBCO and the Fair Air Association of Canada

The Pub and Bar Coalition of Canada (PUBCO) originally formed in Ottawa to fight the City’s 100% smoke-free bylaw which came into effect on 1 August, 2001, also promotes ventilation as an alternative to 100% smoke-free policies. Until recently, this promotion was the work of PUBCO general manager Barry McKay and another PUBCO representative, Dan Taite. However, beginning in September of this year, a new PUBCO spokesperson, Karen Bodirsky, began speaking on behalf of the group on the occasion of publication of a survey done for PUBCO by Enhanced Marketing Services (EMS) of Toronto. The survey asked Toronto bar and restaurant owners to predict what the impact of a smoke-free policy would be on their businesses. Naturally, responses were largely negative.

Upon further investigation, it was determined that EMS had significant ties to the tobacco industry. In particular, the EMS website (since changed) stated in mid-September, that the company’s program manager’s role is to "manage the Benson and Hedges Business Edge Program, including the relationships with sponsor and participating partner corporations to achieve their respective customer acquisition and sales objectives." EMS CEO Ron Gardner was described as having held senior management positions "with several large marketing firms, including RJR Nabisco Inc…"

Bodirsky next surfaced around the time of the Ontario Throne Speech, but this time described as either spokesperson or "Chief Executive" of an entity called the Fair Air Association of Canada (FAAC). This organization is described as promoting ventilation technology solutions on behalf of the Canadian hospitality industry, but little else is known about it. Its overall objective appears to be identical with the Courtesy of Choice campaign and with the anti-smoke-free policy position held by PUBCO.

Bodirsky’s first announcement on behalf of the FAAC was to release another survey, again by EMS, of 4937 licensed establishments outside Toronto between July 21 and September 21. This survey was again predictive in nature with large percentages of respondents indicating smoke-free policies would ruin their businesses.

These types of predictive surveys have long been discredited as an objective source of information about the impact of smoke-free policies. For more on this issue, see the TobaccoScam website. There are a number of cities listed in the box on the right. Click on any city to see what type of strategy/surveys were used in that particular city.

U.S. hospitality and tobacco interests have a long history of creating front groups of this type. The FAAC’s ties to the tobacco industry, like PUBCO’s, are now firmly established and on the record. In a March 2004 conversation with a Toronto City Councillor, Bodirsky admitted that the FAAC receives a “substantial portion” of its funding from the tobacco industry.

Links to the tobacco industry also abound in FAAC’s recent work in Saskatchewan. The association joined with the Hotel Association of Saskatchewan (HAS) in producing and releasing a poll of Saskatchewan residents which allegedly demonstrated support for DSRs. This is a typical poll of this type, in which respondents are not informed that DSRs are technically ineffective, have been misused in other jurisdictions and are fundamentally unfair because only certain establishments have either the space or the funding to build them.

Tom Mullen of the Hotels Association of Saskatchewan has publicly admitted that the poll was entirely funded by the tobacco industry.

The HAS and the FAAC also joined together to sponsor a ‘symposium’ on ventilation as an alternative to 100% smoke-free policies in Saskatoon on March 30th. Featured speakers were to include Elia Sterling of Theodor Sterling and Associates, a long-time tobacco industry consulting firm, and a representative of the British Columbia Workmen’s Compensation Board.

Both the FAAC and PUBCO are fond of quoting the fact that DSRs are allowed under WCB regulations in British Columbia. What they fail to mention is that they were allowed over the objections of the Board itself via a political decision by the Campbell government.

As it turns out, the FAAC and the HAS failed to inform the WCB of the real nature of the event and its ties to the tobacco industry. Once the WCB representative discovered this thanks to information from the Saskatchewan health community, the WCB withdrew its representation from the symposium.

Bodirsky also frequently mentions Nova Scotia’s smoke-free provincial law allowance for the use of designated smoking rooms, as another reason why jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan should adopt them. What she also fails to mention, however, is that about 80% of Nova Scotians live in municipalities which already have 100% smoke-free bar and restaurant bylaws, with no allowance for DSRs. She also fails to note that Premier Hamm has stated publicly that he plans to move the province to 100% smoke-free status no later than 2008. Discussions with the bar and restaurant industry to implement this sunset provision are ongoing, with many operators expressing their dislike of DSRs, both on technical and fairness grounds.

The new FAAC website is a case study in the content of a typical tobacco industry-sponsored hospitality website. To have a look for yourself, go to www.faac.ca .

For those interested in further data about the quality of studies about the economic effects of smoke-free policies on the hospitality industry, please see "Review of the Quality of Studies on the Economic Effects of Smoke-free Policies in the Hospitality Industry" by Scollo et al.

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Why ventilation technology does not protect your health

Second-hand tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and is considered by world health authorities, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. National Toxicology Program , as carcinogenic to humans. There are 69 identified carcinogens in tobacco smoke (IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks. Volume 1 and Supplements 1-8, 1972-1999. (1) Human carcinogens; (2A) Probably carcinogenic in humans; (2B) Possibly carcinogenic to humans; (3) Not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans.).

No regulatory health body in the world has set a safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke in enclosed public places or workplaces, as there is no scientific basis for setting an exposure level greater than zero. Ventilation can clear some of the smoke inside an enclosed space, but there is no ventilation technology that can remove all of the carcinogens and other toxins in tobacco smoke from the air.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) sets ventilation rates that are followed internationally and its standards are commonly written into laws and regulations. This global organization does not set standards for air quality when second-hand smoke is present and it has concluded that there is no acceptable ventilation for second-hand smoke. This conclusion was reached in 1999 with ASHRAE revising its indoor air quality standard. In accepting the health evidence from other health bodies, ASHRAE concluded that there is no acceptable level of exposure to the chemicals released from second-hand smoke. (For a discussion on how the tobacco industry has infiltrated and lobbied ASHRAE, please go to Industry Attack on ASHRAE).

In December 2003, ASHRAE proposed new rules that may further restrict tobacco smoke exposure. If adopted by local governments, the rules would apply to new construction and remodeling projects. It would be up to local building departments to decide whether existing buildings have to comply.

The new requirements would require the addition of barriers between smoking and nonsmoking areas, posting signs to warn patrons that tobacco smoke may be present in areas where smoking is allowed and increasing ventilation in nonsmoking areas. The standards will be put forth for a 30-day public review and ASHRAE votes on whether to adopt the rules. At their recent Winter 2003 meeting they rejected appeals to the new standards. In 2010, ASHRAE released a position document on environmental tobacco smoke (updated 2013).

Why ventilation technology does not work is also summarized in a March 17, 2000 Health Canada briefing note from former Assistant Deputy Minister Ian Potter. The briefing note was sent to the City of Toronto explaining why Health Canada would not test a ventilation system proposed by the Ontario Restaurant Association (now the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association) and the Greater Toronto Hotel Association (for more information on the ORHMA's role in advocating a "ventilation solution" for Toronto, please click here).

Mr. Potter states in part:

"The problem with ventilation as an exposure reduction strategy is that exposure, even if the system is operating at maximum efficiency, is never zero. In other words, in the best-case scenario, there is an explicit acceptance of some level of exposure to non-smokers. In the worst-case scenario, where the ventilation system is never maintained and becomes inoperative, exposure of non-smokers to tobacco smoke is maximized….

Since no ventilation system will protect everybody, and might even delude non-smokers into a false sense of protection, it is concluded that such systems are not as good as a total ban."

OCAT suggests the following additional sources on ventilation:

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