Global study finds Ireland has some of the cleanest pubs in the world


Issue Date: Thursday, 16 March 2006


Harvard Study Finds Irish Pubs Under Smoke-free Law in Ireland Show 91%

Lower Indoor Air Pollution Than "Irish Pubs" in Cities Around the World

Thursday, 16 March - A study of air pollution levels in traditional "Irish pubs" around the world has found that indoor air pollution from second hand smoke in authentic Irish pubs in Ireland is 91 percent lower than in "Irish pubs" located in other countries and cities where smoke-free laws do not apply.

The study - conducted by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Roswell Park Cancer Institute in conjunction with the Office of Tobacco Control, the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society and the Environmental Health Department in the Health Service Executive Western Area - assessed air samples from 128 "Irish pubs" in 15 countries in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Dr Patrick Doorley, Board member of the Office and HSE National Director of Population Health, said, "Understandably, we're delighted with the results of this study.  It's ironic that virtually every major city in the world has an 'Irish pub' but only those in Ireland and a handful of other cities primarily in North America have clean, healthy air.  There is no reason why workers around the world should not expect the same protection from the harmful effects of second hand smoke which workers in Ireland have been enjoying for nearly two years now.

The Irish law has already brought health benefits to the public as early research indicators are highlighting.  Its successful implementation and enforcement is encouraging to other countries who intend to follow suit, including most recently our closest neighbours in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and we would encourage other countries to do likewise."

"The study demonstrates that national and local smoking policies can dramatically improve indoor air quality," said HSPH's Professor Gregory N. Connolly, who led the research team.

"There are no safe limits to second hand smoke, and simply segregating smokers and non-smokers in indoor spaces is of no use.  Although many nations pass laws on second hand smoke, some do not implement them.  Ireland has clearly shown that an indoor smoking ban can be accomplished through education, enforcement and political will.  While people are celebrating St. Patrick's Day across the globe, some will celebrate in healthy environments and others in not-so-healthy environments.  It's time we made second hand smoke global history."

Testing sites included 41 smoke-free Irish pubs in Ireland, the U.S. and Canada and 87 smoking-permitted Irish pubs located in Armenia, Australia, Belgium, China, Germany, Greece, France, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Poland, Romania, U.S. and England.  Irish pubs were defined as those that served Irish beer on tap and had an Irish name (e.g. Murphy's, O'Donnell's) or a visible statement that the venue was an Irish pub.

Maurice Mulcahy, Principal Environmental Health Officer in the Health Service Executive Galway, who led the study fieldwork in Ireland and the United Kingdom, said, "The Irish pubs in London, Manchester, Belfast and Newry were on average 13 times more polluted than those in Galway, Dublin, Cork and Ennis.  The results are dramatic, for example, in Galway the levels of the small particles measured in pubs averaged 18 whereas in Belfast these were 353, in Newry 400 and in London 296.  The highest recorded levels were in Lyon where a figure of 1,051 was recorded, some 37 times more polluted than the average level recorded in pubs in the Republic of Ireland."

Professor Luke Clancy, Director General of the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society explained, "Second hand smoke is a major source of respirable suspended particles (RSPs).  A specific class of RSPs known as PM2.5, particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter, is composed of extremely small particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lung and pose dangerous health effects.  The fact that there are "Irish pubs" scattered around the globe provided the perfect sample for measuring the differences in RSP levels in these pubs.

Professor Clancy said that the results of today's study further emphasise results of studies conducted in Ireland since the introduction of the smoke-free workplace law, including a study of 40 pubs in Dublin which recorded a reduction in smaller particles of 84% since the law was introduced.

He added, "The success of the iconic "Irish Pub" brand is grounded in its authenticity.  The challenge now to "Irish Pubs" throughout the world on St. Patrick's Day is to remain faithful to the reality of pubs in Ireland and become smoke-free."

Among the Irish pubs surveyed worldwide, the PM2.5 level averaged 23 µg/m3 for smoke-free pubs while averaging 340 µg/m3 for pubs where smoking was permitted.  In the Republic of Ireland, the average PM2.5 level was 28 µg/m3 in comparison to the highest average level of small particle pollution at 1051 µg/m3 found in an Irish pub in Lyon, France.

Notably high levels were also measured in Irish pubs in Hoboken, N.J.; Charleroi, Belgium; Athens, Greece; Beirut, Lebanon and Torun, Poland.

The study How Smoke-free Laws Improve Air Quality: A Global Study of Irish Pubs will be presented at a live webcast featuring Irish health authorities and US researchers on Thursday, March 16 at 5.30pm at this web address:

A copy of the study is available on HSPH's website,


Notes to the Editor:

This study was conducted by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Roswell Park Cancer Institute in conjunction with the Office of Tobacco Control, the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society and the Environmental Health Department in the Health Service Executive Western Area.  Support for this report was also provided by the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute.

There are limitations to this study.  First, convenience samples of Irish pubs and locations were used and thus, findings may not be representative of all Irish pubs.  Second, testing did not control for ventilation or smoke that may have migrated from outdoors where smokers tend to smoke.  Third, second hand smoke is not the only source of indoor levels of PM2.5 and other sources such as ambient particle concentrations, cooking, and migration of smoke from outside could contribute to overall levels of indoor air pollution. The researchers said that they would expect, however, that other sources would be present in both smoke-free and smoking-permitted pubs and thus, differences in average PM2.5 are largely attributable to second hand smoke.

Second hand smoke;

Second hand smoke exposure remains a major public health concern that is entirely preventable. Second hand smoke is a recognized human carcinogen containing at least 250 chemicals that are known to be toxic or carcinogenic, and is responsible for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually in the U.S. among people who have never smoked as well as more than 25,000 deaths annually from coronary heart disease in never smokers, plus respiratory infections, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other illnesses in children.

Dangers of second hand smoke exposure are highest among restaurant and bar workers whose workplaces typically are not regulated for air quality and who have some of the highest lung cancer rates of any occupation.

Respirable suspended particles (RSPs);

In order to protect public health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set limits of 15µg/m3 as the average allowable annual exposure level and 65 µg/m3for any 24-hour exposure.

Airborne particles (including a specific class of RSPs known as PM2.5) are the main constituents of tobacco smoke containing chemicals known to be harmful to health.

Global smoke-free laws;

Many US states and countries have implemented policies for smoke-free workplaces including restaurants and pubs.  The countries that currently have indoor smoking bans that cover pubs include:

Europe; Ireland, Malta, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Scotland (upcoming), England (effective 2007) and Northern Ireland (effective 2007);

United States and Canada; California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Montana (2009), New Jersey (April, 2006), New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah (2009), Vermont, Washington, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The Washington, D.C. law will extend to cover bars in January, 2007.  Many US states have adopted local smoke-free laws.  As of January 2006, 28 percent of the US population was covered by local or state-wide smoke-free bar laws, and almost 40 percent of the population was covered by any smoke-free law (i.e. workplace, restaurant, bar).

In Canada, a number of provinces have enacted smoke free laws.

And other parts of the world including;

Bhutan, New Zealand and Uruguay.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control (FCTC) calls on governments to protect all persons from exposure to tobacco smoke, rather than just specific populations such as children or pregnant women (Guiding Principle 4.1).  This protection should be extended, according to Article 8.2, in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and other public places.


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