The researchers sampled 10 rural pubs in six North Island districts between November 2010 and March 2011 using a specialised air quality monitor. The monitor sampled the levels of fine particulates of up to 2.5 micrometres in diameter in the indoor air.
“The results suggest that rural pubs are maintaining their bars smokefree six years after the smokefree law came into force,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Nick Wilson.
“At the time the law was proposed there was some doubt if rural pubs would be that compliant, but this provides some evidence that they’re doing a good job.”
When the new smokefree law was introduced there was considerable resistance from the managers of rural pubs who feared their businesses would suffer because of it. A survey of managers found that 73% predicted business losses, while 35% said they would ignore the law if they could get away with it.
But the results of this study suggest that compliance is not a problem and that the average air quality in the pubs is relatively good. They show low average values for fine particulate (PM 2.5) levels in all pubs, with an average value of eight micrograms per cubic metre of air. In all the pubs there was no illegal smoking observed inside, nor any evidence of ashtrays or butts on floors.
The researchers say this positive result is consistent with the small number of prosecutions (only five by August 2010) for breaches of the law since 2004. However the study also says that drifting tobacco smoke from outdoor areas may be a problem.
They found higher peak levels of particulates of up to 50 micrograms per cubic metre in two pubs where the researchers smelt tobacco smoke indoors. This was likely to be from smoke that had drifted inside as these particular pubs had open windows facing outdoor smoking areas. This problem with smoke drift has also been found in a study of pubs in Wellington City published earlier this year in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
The study concludes that policymakers should consider upgrading New Zealand’s smokefree law to reduce the drift of second-hand smoke and further reduce ‘pollution’ of outdoor eating or drinking areas.
The options include limiting smoking to 50% of these outdoor areas, or banning it altogether as in some jurisdictions overseas. They say that “this would help lower the cancer risk for pub workers and also for non-smokers wanting to have a drink or meal at an outdoor table”.
For further information, contact
Associate Professor Nick Wilson
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
Mob 021 2045 523