Tobacco Info

From Tobacco Info No. 2 - September 2010
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City of Ottawa kicks off campaign exposing health risks of second-hand smoke


Smoking outdoors pollutes your lungs and the environment


Ottawa Public Health has launched a campaign to highlight the adverse effects of second-hand smoke in public spaces.


The city started the campaign on July 23 in response to concerns raised by residents, and is the latest municipality to delve into the outdoor second-hand smoke (SHS) discussion.


Exposure to SHS outdoors can be as dangerous as it is indoors,” says a posting on the public health website.


The trend of restricting smoking in select outdoor areas is growing in Canada, where 31 municipalities have implemented some form of outdoor smoking regulation, including large cities like Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver, where the Vancouver Park Board has voted unanimously to ban smoking in more than 200 city parks and on all city beaches effective September 1. Other municipalities have also taken action, including Collingwood and New Tecumseh, Ontario, banning smoking in or near playgrounds; St. Albert, Alberta, on the grounds of an outdoor public event; Moncton, New Brunswick, and Stratford, PEI, at municipal sports fields.


Ottawa Public Health is encouraging people to get up and leave the area when possibly exposed to second-hand smoke.


They shouldn’t sit there and breathe in the second-hand smoke because they are potentially doing damage to themselves,” said Krista Oswald, the supervisor of the city’s tobacco control program. “We have the research that says, yes, it is affecting people, it can cause adverse health effects.


That research is based on air quality tests done on patios in Vancouver and in the United States, Oswald said. (See Outdoor tobacco smoke exposure studies next page.)


The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) has long championed smoke-free outdoor spaces, such as parks and playgrounds. “Outdoor smoking results in outdoor tobacco smoke, which poses the same health risks as second-hand tobacco smoke indoors,” wrote the CCS on its website. “In particular, the Society is concerned about children being exposed to adult smoking behaviour in youth-friendly areas like playgrounds. Not only does adult smoking teach children that smoking is acceptable, it exposes them unnecessarily to the health risks of second-hand smoke.


The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit estimates that second-hand smoke causes the deaths of at least 1,000 Canadians every year, and could be responsible for as many as 7,800 deaths.


Outdoor smoking not green


Outdoor smoking also has a negative impact on the environment with respect to smoking-related litter and it is a source of fire in our provincial parks,” wrote the CCS.


According to statistics compiled by the CCS, over 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered worldwide each year and are the most littered item in the world. The Great Canadian Shore Cleanup reports that in 2009, 37.8% of all litter collected was tobacco-related. In total, over 407,000 tobacco-related items were picked up across Canada, up from 2008. Cigarette filters (butts), cigar tips and tobacco packaging all made the top 12 list of most littered items, with filters topping the list at number one.   


Composed of cellulose acetate, cigarette butts are not biodegradable; they only break down into smaller components, making them an increasing and ongoing threat to the health and natural beauty of Canadian parks and beaches and resident wildlife.


Restricting outdoor smoking would reduce litter and pollution from discarded cigarette butts. According to a 2004 report compiled by Nova Scotia Capital Health, 58% of Minnesota park directors in cities with smoke-free policies reported cleaner park areas. Discarded cigarettes pollute land and water, while toxic butts can be eaten by pets, birds, fish or even toddlers.


In 2009, the US Center for Disease Control studied 146 children aged six months to two years who had ingested cigarette butts, and found that a third of children who ingested cigarettes or cigarette butts developed symptoms including spontaneous vomiting (in 87% of cases), as well as nausea, lethargy, gagging and a pale or flushed appearance.


– by Joe Strizzi


 If you or your organization is interested in becoming involved in the Ottawa campaign, please call the Ottawa Council on Smoking and Health at 613 580-2889 or write to



Smoking and forest fires


Careless cigarette use is often the cause of forest fires. Between 1996 and 2005, fires ignited by smoking-related materials accounted for 6% of all fires in Alberta alone.


A cigarette-caused fire is responsible for one of the largest forest fires in Canadian history, which was started by a discarded cigarette in BC in 2003. Some 70 plus homes and tens of thousands of hectares of forest were destroyed in the Kamloops area.


In 2002 in Lake Tahoe, California, a cigarette tossed from the cabin of a gondola carrying riders to the top of the mountain started a fire that burned 672 acres of forest. In 2007, a fire in the Kula Forest Reserve, in Hawaii, burned for seven days and destroyed close to 2,300 acres of land. The fire was traced to a cigarette butt, which had been improperly disposed of. In 2009, a discarded cigarette ignited a wildfire in Texas, burning over 400 acres.


The estimated economic cost of fighting wildfires includes losses incurred from extinguishing a fire, (human resources, ground and air support) and losses to the forestry industry as well as to an already shrinking wildlife habitat. According to a report released by the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control in lieu of 2009’s National Non-Smoking Week, the cost of forest fires due to smoking in Canada was $26 million in 2002.



Outdoor tobacco smoke exposure studies


James Repace’s Benefits of smoke-free regulations in outdoor settings in 2006 reported that tobacco smoke contains at least 172 toxic substances, including three regulated outdoor air pollutants, 33 hazardous air pollutants, 47 chemicals restricted as hazardous waste and 67 known human or animal carcinogens.


The smoke from a single cigarette can be detected between 7-10 metres (23-33 feet approximately) away, depending on environmental conditions like wind direction and speed. As a result, second-hand smoke can easily travel and affect people on a beach, park or playground, where that distance would be easily encompassed.


Repace’s study also found that the proximity to an outdoor tobacco source does affect your exposure to second-hand smoke, where air pollution levels were near those of indoor exposure.


The California Air Resources Board (CARB), in 2006, measured the nicotine concentrations in outdoor tobacco smoke outside an airport, college, government centre, office complex and amusement park. CARB found that at these typical outdoor locations, people may be exposed to levels of outdoor tobacco smoke as high as those of indoor second-hand smoke.


Klepeis, Ott and Switzer measured outdoor tobacco smoke respirable particle concentrations in outdoor patios, on airport and city sidewalks and in parks. They also conducted controlled experiments of indoor and outdoor second-hand smoke. Their report, entitled Real-time measurement of outdoor tobacco smoke particles published in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association in 2007, found that mean second-hand smoke particle concentrations outdoors can be comparable to second-hand smoke indoors.


A California health hazards study entitled Health effects of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke: Final Report found that children are particularly susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke due to their higher breathing rates per body weight, their greater lung surface area relative to adults and the comparative immaturity of their lungs. Infants and children are also generally unable to control their environment, and therefore cannot take steps to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. As a result, children inhale a greater percentage of toxins than adults. For these reasons, Nova Scotia Capital Health believes it is particularly important to prohibit smoking in outdoor locations where children congregate. In addition, adult smoking in view of children may send them the message that smoking is associated with enjoyable outdoor activities since bans are now in place at many indoor facilities.