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CDC rips exposure to smoke at airports

| Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 7:42 p.m.

Ventilation at five major airports with designated smoking areas does not protect passengers from the health risks of secondhand smoke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned.

The CDC, in its first study comparing air quality at airports with and without smoke-fee policies, finds pollution levels adjacent 39 inches to smoking areas five times higher than levels at airports that entirely ban smoking. Levels inside smoking areas, including bars and restaurants, were 23 times higher than at smoke-free airports.

“Significant secondhand smoke exposure is going on. ... These are unnecessary dangers for airport employees and passengers,” says Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. He says the report shows smoking areas are not ventilated enough, adding that a ban on all indoor smoking is the “only effective protection” against secondhand smoke.

McAfee says there's “no safe level” of secondhand smoke exposure. The CDC says it causes heart disease and lung cancer in non-smoking adults and is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children. It says even brief exposure can trigger acute cardiac events such as heart attack.

Although federal laws have banned smoking on all domestic and international commercial airline flights, they do not require airports to be smoke-free. Most airports with designated smoking areas are located in states without smoke-free laws or are exempted from such laws.

Five of the 29 largest U.S. airports, accounting for about 15 percent of U.S. air travel last year, allow smoking in designated public areas: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Denver International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport.

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