Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Outdoor/Recreational Areas

This page last reviewed November 30, 2010

Public awareness of the adverse health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure is growing and most indoor public environments in California are now smoke free. ETS exposure in the outdoors, however, is often mistaken to be safe due to the mixing of the smoke with fresh air. Since very little is known about the range of concentrations in outdoor environments, ARB conducted an outdoor monitoring study as part of its investigation into ETS as a Toxic Air Contaminant (TAC). This study had some surprising results: some of the concentrations of nicotine measured were found to be just as high as some documented indoor exposures. And, although many outdoor ETS exposures may be considered low, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that there was no safe threshold of exposure to ETS. Infrequent and low exposures are still capable of inducing cardiovascular effects that could result in a serious event. Furthermore, brief exposure to ETS can also trigger an asthma attack in susceptable individuals. ETS may also be one of the greatest threats to the health of athletes, officials, and spectators in sports arenas and outdoor sporting events as it may compromise their training and performance. Athletes often mention ETS as an irritant at sporting events, such as bike races and skiing competitions.

Overall, Californians support smoking bans around playgrounds, building entrances, outdoor sporting events, entertainment venues, outdoor dining areas, and apartment and hotel common areas. California legislation bans smoking within 25 feet of playgrounds and sandboxes (AB 188, 2001) as well as within 20 feet of doorways (AB 846, 2003). Some California communities have enacted more restrictive ordinances: Calabasas was the first U.S. city to go completely smoke-free (smoking allowed in designated areas only) and smoking is prohibited on Solana Beach, Monterey beach, and some beaches in San Diego and Orange County. A smoking ban has also been proposed for all Santa Cruz City Parks, and it has also been banned in most public places in Contra Costa County and Santa Monica.

Links to more information on outdoor ETS exposure and the policies and bans associated with it are provided below.

Exposure in Outdoor/Recreational Areas and Sports Arenas:

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Resource Guide to Smoking and Non-Smoking Policies at Major U.S. Professional and Intercollegiate Sports Stadiums, Arenas and Race Tracks
ARB Exposure Information Executive Summary, ETS TAC Identification Report
Measurements of Outdoor Air Pollution from Secondhand Smoke on the UMBC Campus Scientific article detailing ETS concentrations in outdoor air
BREATH Outdoor Tobacco Smoke
Environmental Threats to the Sports Participant Information on ETS exposure in arenas and stadiums and its effects on athletes, officials and spectators

Information on Outdoor Smoking Bans:

Action on Smoking and Health Reasons for Banning Smoking in Certain Outdoor Areas
There's No Right To Smoke Information on constitutionality of smoking bans, particularly outdoors
Santa Monica Daily Press Santa Monica Takes Final Public Puffs
Agoura Hills Acorn Recent Report on Secondhand Smoke Leaves Calabasas Officials Feeling Vindicated

Contact us if you have any questions regarding ARB's ETS program, or have suggestions or comments on this page.
Rober Krieger: (916) 323-1202

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