Study finds non-smoking rooms, hallways tainted by nicotine
Anyone who has ever walked into a non-smoking hotel room and caught the distinct odor of cigarette smoke will not be surprised by the findings of a new study: When a hotel allows smoking in any of its rooms, the smoke gets into all of its rooms.
Nicotine residues and other chemical traces “don't stay in the smoking rooms,” said Georg Matt, a psychologist from San Diego State University who led the study, published on Monday in the journal Tobacco Control. “They end up in the hallways and in other rooms, including non-smoking rooms.”
The study found smoke residue on surfaces and in the air of smoking and non-smoking rooms in 30 California hotels where smoking was allowed. Levels were highest in the smoking rooms, but levels in non-smoking rooms were much higher than those found at 10 smoke-free hotels.
Volunteers who stayed overnight in the smoking hotels ended up with sticky nicotine residues on their fingers, whether they stayed in smoking rooms or not.
Urine tests found additional evidence of nicotine exposure in those who stayed in smoking rooms but not those who stayed in the non-smoking rooms.
The research is released as smoke-free hotels are becoming more common, though not as common as smoke-free bars and restaurants. Many large chains, including Marriott, Westin and Comfort Inn, have gone smoke-free, and hotels must be smoke-free by law in four states and 71 cities and counties, according to the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. Nearly two-thirds of hotels responding to a recent survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association said they were smoke-free, though just 39 percent of economy hotels said so.
The reason many hotels still offer smoking rooms is that some domestic and international travelers want them, said Kathryn Potter, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Washington-based hotel association. “I have family members (and) friends who book hotels based on where they can smoke,” she said.
About one in five U.S. adults smoke, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.