Many outdoor venues, including parks, beaches and college campuses, are banning smoking, according to ABC News. The number of outdoor smoking bans has almost doubled in the last five years.
Critics of the bans say there is a lack of solid medical evidence that shows cigarette smoke outdoors can be harmful to children and others. “The evidence of a risk to people in open-air settings is flimsy,” said Ronald Bayer, a Columbia University professor.
Many studies have shown indoor secondhand smoke can cause health problems such as heart disease, the article notes. This research has led to indoor smoking bans, which are in effect in nearly half of the country’s bars, restaurants and workplaces.
Some studies have tried to measure secondhand smoke levels outdoors, and found they are similar to what a person may breathe indoors, depending on how the wind blows and whether there is a sheltered area that can trap smoke. Two small studies of nonsmokers sitting in a smoky outdoor dining area found they had significant increases in cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine use.
James Repace, a scientist-consultant who has studied outdoor smoke, says he thinks people who could face serious health risks may be those with severe asthma and staff at outdoor cafes that allow smoking.