Indoor smoking bans have forced smokers at bars and restaurants onto outdoor patios, but a new study suggests that these outdoor smoking areas might be creating a new health hazard.
The study, thought to be the first to assess levels of a nicotine byproduct known as cotinine in nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke outdoors, found levels up to 162 percent greater than in the control group.
Secondhand smoke contains several known carcinogens, and there may be no safe level of exposure.
Cigarettes are also "widely contaminated" with bacteria, including some known to cause disease in people, according to a new international study.
The research team describes the study as the first to show that cigarettes could be the direct source of exposure to a wide array of potentially pathogenic microbes among smokers and people exposed to secondhand smoke.
Bacteria of medical significance to humans were identified in all of the tested cigarettes and included:
- Acinetobacter (associated with lung and blood infections)
- Bacillus (some varieties associated with food-borne illnesses and anthrax)
- Burkholderia (some forms responsible for respiratory infections)
- Clostridium (associated with food-borne illnesses and lung infections)
- Klebsiella (associated with a variety of lung, blood and other infections)
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa (an organism that causes 10 percent of all hospital-acquired infections in the United States)