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Study: Bar Workers Have Less Breathing Problems After Workplace Smoking Ban

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In March, the country of Scotland banned smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Researchers wondered about the health benefits the ban might have for bar workers.

Bridget McCarthy has worked in a San Francisco pub for 14 years. Eight years ago, California banned smoking in bars. Before the ban, McCarthy remembers burning eyes and constant coughing after work.

"You felt like you smoked a pack of cigarettes and you smelled. And since the ban, that doesn't happen anymore," McCarthy said.

A study published in the

Journal of the American Medical Association

backs up her claim. The study measured bar workers' lung health before and after the smoking ban in Scotland.

Researchers measured sensory and respiratory problems, which included irritation of the eyes, nose and throat along with coughing and problems breathing.

"Both improved markedly within one or two months after the smoking ban went into effect," said Dr. Mark Eisner of the University of California at San Francisco.

Scottish researchers also measured lung function in bar workers. They saw quick and dramatic improvement there as well. Asthmatic bar workers had less airway inflammation.

"In the medical community, it's actually been controversial whether secondhand smoke makes asthma worse in adults, and this is the first study to really show that creation of smoke-free workplaces led to dramatic improvement," Eisner said.

"I'm living proof of it. I actually have asthma, and my need for inhalers went down exponentially after the ban," McCarthy said.

Eisner said a smoking ban in workplaces everywhere makes sense. He said studies show it does not hurt business and may, in fact, improve business.

According to a recent Elon University Poll, nearly 65 percent of North Carolina residents would support a statewide ban on smoking in public places. The survey also said more than half of the respondents prefer restaurants that do not allow smoking.


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