Background: Secondhand smoke poses a serious health hazard. In Israel The recent passage of a law designed to protect people from secondhand smoke in public places was greeted with controversy. The debate is taking place without data on actual levels of pollution for secondhand smoke in public places.
Objectives: To estimate levels of small respirable suspended particles, atmospheric markers of secondhand smoke, in Israeli bars, pubs and cafes, to compare them with levels in other countries, and to analyze RSP determinants.
Methods: This study was conducted in bars, pubs and cafes in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv prior to passage of the enforcement bill. Venues were randomly sampled from lists available in the local mass media.
Results: The average level of RSPs across all venues, 283 μg/m3, was nearly identical to levels in countries without enforced smoking bans. Bars and pubs had higher values than cafes (P = 0.0101). The effect of smoker concentration was borderline significant (P = 0.0540), with RSP levels increasing as smoker concentration increased. The effect of venue height was also borderline significant (P = 0.0642), with RSP levels decreasing as venue height increased.
Conclusions: Levels of indoor air pollution from secondhand smoke in Israeli bars, pubs and cafes prior to the recent passage of the enforcement bill were similar to levels in countries without enforced smoking bans, and roughly 10 times as high as countries with enforced smoking bans. Whether the new law will successfully promote clean air in Israeli bars, pubs, cafes, and other indoor places is yet to be seen.