Slightly under half of the 50 busiest airports in the world - 23 - have smoke-free indoor policies. This means air travellers and employees at 46% of the world's busiest airports are protected from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's first assessment of smoke-free policies in the world's airports. The other 27 busiest airports allow smoking in designated or ventilated indoor areas.
Airports were defined as having a smoke-free policy if they completely prohibited smoking in all indoor areas. The airports defined as having no smoke-free policy allowed smoking in designated smoking rooms, restaurants, bars, or airline clubs.
"The Surgeon General has concluded there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure," said Dr Corinne Graffunder, Director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Even brief exposure can have health consequences."
The study, which assessed policies in 2017, found that in Asia, 18% of 22 airports have a smoke-free policy. All four of the airports with a smoke-free policy are in China.
A previous CDC study documented that secondhand smoke can transfer from designated smoking areas into nonsmoking areas in airports, where non-smoking travellers and employees can be exposed. As a result, travellers and workers are at risk of secondhand smoke exposure in such airports.
"Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke," said Dr Brian King, Deputy Director for Research Translation in the Office on Smoking and Health. "People who spend time in, pass by, clean, or work near these rooms are at risk of exposure to secondhand smoke."
Exposure to secondhand smoke from burning tobacco products causes premature death and disease including coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer among non-smoking adults.