Why is Outdoor Smoking a Public Health Issue?
For many years, we advised smokers to “take it outside” to provide protection from circulating indoor smoke. Now, new research shows that physical exposure to outdoor tobacco can also be unsafe. Moreover, research on social modeling and visual and other sensory cueing suggests that outdoor social exposure is a serious problem as well.
We now know that:
• Physical exposure to outdoor tobacco smoke can be hazardous
• Outdoor smoke can drift indoors and continue to circulate
• Social exposure to tobacco smoking (seeing smoking, smelling smoke)
can normalize smoking;leading to initiation among nonsmokers,
• Seeing people smoking outdoors or smelling smoke can provide sensory
cues for relapse among quitters and make it difficult for smokers who are
trying to quit.
There are additional concerns with outdoor smoking:
• Thirdhand smoke, carried in on hands, hair and clothing from smoking
outdoors, can contaminate indoor environments
• The use of cigarette-like products, such as electronic or e-cigarettes, is
a form of social exposure with the potential to normalize smoking and
undermine outdoor smoking bans
• Outdoor exposure to smoke from herbal products, such as herbal
hookah, can be just as hazardous as exposure to tobacco smoke
Social exposure often co-occurs with physical exposure, but there are many exceptions. Those exposed to thirdhand smoke and smoke that drifts in from outdoors may not actually see smoking occur, although the odour may be detectable. People may see others smoking outdoors at a distance or see smoking-related paraphernalia, such as ashtrays, cigarette packages and butts, but not be physically exposed to smoke. As restrictions on smoking increase, and knowledge of harmful health effects grows, our tolerance for exposure has decreased, resulting in greater demand for protection in a growing number of outdoor locations (NSRA, 2013).
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