Non-Smoking Hotel Rooms Still Expose Guests To Third-Hand Smoke
May 15, 2013

Partial Smoking Bans Not Effective At Protecting Non-Smoking Hotel Guests

Jason Pierce, MSN, MBA, RN for — Your Universe Online

A study conducted by researchers from San Diego State University (SDSU) and published in the journal Tobacco Control suggests that guests staying in hotels that allow smoking are being exposed to potentially dangerous levels of tobacco and carcinogens even if they choose a non-smoking room.

Study author Dr. Georg Matt at the Department of Psychology at SDSU reports, "Our findings demonstrate that some non-smoking guest rooms in smoking hotels are as polluted with third-hand smoke as are some smoking rooms. Moreover, non-smoking guests staying in smoking rooms may be exposed to tobacco smoke pollutants at levels found among non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke."

According to the CDC, even brief exposure to second-hand smoke can increase an individual´s risk of heart disease and lung cancer as an adult. In children second-hand smoke can increase the risk of frequent asthma attacks, ear infections, respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Third-hand smoke refers to residue from tobacco that remains stuck to surfaces such as clothing, furniture, carpet, and walls. This residue remains long after the smoking has ceased. Previous studies have found that third-hand smoke reacts with the nitrous acid already present in the air to form dangerous carcinogens.

The researchers conducted the study by evaluating the levels of third-hand smoke in the air and on surfaces at 10 hotels with complete smoking bans and 30 hotels that offer both smoking and non-smoking rooms. The sample was chosen randomly from among budget to mid-range priced hotels in San Diego, California. In addition, urine specimens and finger swabs collected from non-smokers who stayed at any of the hotels were analyzed for nicotine and other cancer causing agents found in tobacco smoke.

Levels of third-hand smoke were higher in the hotels that offered both smoking and non-smoking rooms. Even in non-smoking rooms the levels were higher than those found in the rooms of the hotels that completely banned smoking.

Overall, surface levels were more than double and air levels were as much as seven times higher. In rooms where smoking had previously occurred the air levels of nicotine were 22 time higher and there was 35 times more nicotine found on surfaces. The hallways of the hotels that allow smoking also contained higher levels of third-hand smoke.

Non-smoking guests staying in hotels without complete smoking bans had higher levels of nicotine on their hands and evidence of increased exposure to carcinogens in their urine.

The research supports previous findings which suggest reducing exposure to third-hand smoke by replacing furnishings, carpets, and wallboard in buildings where smoking was previously allowed.

The authors advise new hotels to enforce complete smoking bans for the health of their guests and staff. In addition, non-smokers should choose hotels with complete smoking bans in order to avoid the effects of exposure to third-hand smoke.