Outdoor Tobacco Smoke

Click here to download the PDF version.

Outdoor Tobacco Smoke (OTS) is Dangerous

  • In 2005, the California Air Resources Board named secondhand smoke an outdoor air pollutant and a toxic air contaminant.

  • Outdoor tobacco smoke (OTS) is just as dangerous as SHS indoors, depending on the number of smokers, how close they are, and weather conditions.

  • When people smoke in outdoor cafes and patios, OTS rivals indoor concentrations.2

  • OTS is detected up to 13 ft. away from one active smoker.2

  • Servers and bartenders working in outdoor smoking sections are more exposed to OTS than those working in smoke‐free outdoor areas.3

  • Enclosed patios that provide protection from the wind may expose workers and patrons to higher levels of OTS.


Designated Outdoor Smoking Areas are Not Enough

  • Simple separation of smokers within the same airspace does not eliminate exposure to OTS.
  • Providing a space to smoke does not encourage quitting or provide a healthier environment.
  • Building and maintaining outdoor smoking huts sends a message that smoking is expected.

Public Health Response to OTS

  • By February 2008, 45% of U.S. hospitals had adopted smoke‐free campus policies.4
  • At least 420 U.S. colleges and universities have adopted 100% smoke‐free campus policies which cover both indoor and outdoor spaces without exemptions.5
  • If outdoor smoking areas are designated, it is recommended that they be at least 20 ft. away from doors, windows and ventilation systems.6

From the Experts…

“Even if outdoor environmental tobacco smoke were no more hazardous than dog excrement…, laws [in many communities] require dog owners to avoid fouling public areas. Is this too much to ask of smokers?”7

  1. California Environmental Protection Agency. Proposed Identification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant. Sacramento, CA: Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency; 2005 June 24,.
  2. Klepeis NE, Ott WR, Switzer P. Real‐time measurement of outdoor tobacco smoke particles. J Air Waste Manag Assoc 2007;57:522‐34.
  3. Hall JC, Bernert JT, Hall DB, St Helen G, Kudon LH, Naeher LP. Assessment of exposure to secondhand smoke at outdoor bars and family restaurants in Athens, Georgia, using salivary cotinine. J Occup Environ Hyg 2009;6:698‐704.
  4. Majority of US hospital will have smoke‐free campuses by end of the year. (Accessed 20 August 2010 at www.physorg.com/pdf169963614.pdf).
  5. U.S. Colleges and Universities with Smokefree Air Policies Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. (Accessed July 24, 2010, at https://no‐ smoke.org/pdf/smokefreecollegesuniversities.pdf.)
  6. Repace J. Measurements of outdoor air pollution from secondhand smoke on the UMBC campus: Repace Associates, Inc; 2005 June 1, 2005.
  7. Repace J. Banning outdoor smoking is scientifically justifiable. Tob Control 2000;9:98.