ATLANTA, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Air pollution levels inside designated U.S. airport smoking areas were 23 times higher than levels in smoke-free airports, health officials found.
"Instead of going entirely smoke-free, five airports continue to allow smoking in restaurants, bars or ventilated smoking rooms. However, research shows that separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot fully eliminate secondhand smoke exposure," study co-author Brian King, an epidemiologist with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. "People who spend time in, pass by, clean, or work near these rooms are at risk of exposure to secondhand smoke."
In the CDC study, designated smoking areas in airports included restaurants, bars and ventilated smoking rooms.
Five of the 29 largest airports in the United States allow smoking in designated areas that are accessible to the public. The airports that allow smoking include Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Denver International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport.
"The findings further confirm that ventilated smoking rooms and designated smoking areas are not effective," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas is the only effective way to fully eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke."
A 2006 Surgeon General's Report concluded there was no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking was banned on all U.S. domestic and international commercial airline flights by 2000, but no federal policy requires airports to be smoke-free, the researchers said.