New Harvard Study: Healthier to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Smoke-Free Irish Pub

Study Finds Air Is Less Polluted in Smoke-Free Pubs; Health Advocates Call for Smoke-Free Workplace Law that Includes Bars and Restaurants in Armenia

Yerevan – A new study being released yesterday by the Harvard University School of Public Health and other researchers shows that it’s healthier to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like the real Irish – in a smoke-free bar or pub. Ireland became the first country to implement a nationwide law making all indoor workplaces smoke-free, including restaurants and bars, in March 2004. Hundreds of cities and regions across the world have taken action, as have whole countries including England (effective 2007), Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy and Uruguay.

The study measured air pollution levels in 41 smoke-free Irish pubs in Ireland, the United States and Canada and 87 Irish pubs that allow smoking in Armenia, Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Greece, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Poland, Romania, the United States and England. Irish pubs were defined as those that served Irish beer on tap and had an Irish name or a visible statement that the venue was an Irish pub. The study found that the average level of air pollution inside Ireland’s smoke-free pubs was 91 percent lower than inside Irish pubs located in countries and cities that still permit workplace smoking.

Air pollution levels in one Irish pub in Armenia are more than 21 times higher than in smoke-free pubs in Ireland and other countries.

“This study shows why our country needs stronger regulations on smoke-free workplaces that would include restaurants and bars,” said Dr. Narine Movsisyan, Project Coordinator of Health Services Research and Development at the American University of Armenia and Armenian Public Health Alliance Tobacco Control Project Director. “Every time we’re exposed to secondhand smoke, we are exposed to thousands of chemicals that cause cancer, heart disease and other serious respiratory conditions. None of us should have to put up with polluted air to earn for a living or enjoy a night out. The government should protect people’s right to breathe indoor smoke-free air.”

The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. Dozens of studies and hard economic data have shown that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and sometimes have a positive impact. Some of the strongest evidence comes from New York City, where a report found that, in the year after the city’s comprehensive smoke-free law took effect March 30, 2003, business receipts for restaurants and bars increased, employment rose, the number of liquor licenses increased, virtually all establishments are complying with the law, and the vast majority of New Yorkers support the law. There is also growing evidence that smoke-free laws can save money. Several studies indicate that secondhand smoke costs some countries billions of US dollars a year in health care bills, lost wages and other costs.

The new international tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), calls on governments to protect all persons from exposure to tobacco smoke, rather than just specific populations such as children or pregnant women. According to the treaty, this protection should include “indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and other public places.” The treaty became international law on February 27, 2005. Armenia acceded to the FCTC on November 29, 2005.

“This study demonstrates that national and local smoking policies can dramatically improve indoor air quality,” said Greg Connolly, the study’s lead researcher and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. “There are no safe limits to secondhand smoke, and simply segregating smokers and non-smokers in indoor spaces is of no use. Ireland has shown the way for nations to protect their citizens from a preventable cause of disease and death.”

Contact: Narine Movsisyan, MD, MPH. Project Coordinator, Center for Health Services Research and Development, American University of Armenia. Phone: (37410) 51 26 17, fax: (37410) 51 25 66, e-mail: nmovsesi@aua.am