Are Nonsmoking Hotel Rooms Really Safer?

    People who opt for nonsmoking rooms in hotels with a partial smoking ban may not be protected from harmful exposure to so-called “thirdhand” smoke, according to a new study.

    Smoking in hotels leaves a trail of tobacco pollution in the air and on surfaces in both smoking and nonsmoking rooms, researchers Georg Matt and colleagues at San Diego State University found. New hotels should enforce total smoking bans to protect their guests and employees, said the study authors, who also advised people to avoid hotels that allow smoking in designated areas.

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    “Our findings demonstrate that some nonsmoking guest rooms in smoking hotels are as polluted with [third-hand smoke] as are some smoking rooms,” the researchers wrote. “Moreover, nonsmoking guests staying in smoking rooms may be exposed to tobacco smoke pollutants at levels found among nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke.”

    The study involved 40 budget-priced to mid-range hotels in San Diego. Of these hotels, 10 had complete smoking bans. Thirty hotels had partial smoking bans with designated nonsmoking rooms. The findings appeared online May 13 in the journal Tobacco Control.

    The researchers examined the hotel rooms’ surfaces and air quality for evidence of nicotine and 3EP, a marker of tobacco smoke. Urine and finger wipe samples were also taken from nonsmokers who spent the night at any of the hotels to assess their exposure to nicotine and a carcinogen found in tobacco smoke known as NKK.

    Nonsmoking rooms in hotels with partial smoking bans had evidence of air pollution. These designated nonsmoking rooms had levels of surface nicotine that were more than twice as high as rooms in hotels with total smoking bans, according to a journal news release.

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