Bar, club workers dying of smoke
Hundreds of pub and club workers could be dying from passive smoking-related disease in Australia every year, a health physicist and passive smoking expert warned.
In a Cancer Council commissioned study, health physicist Professor James Repace calculated that 73 of NSW's 40,000 bar and club staff could expect to die from passive smoking-related heart disease and lung cancer every year.
Although the study used only data collected from NSW pubs and clubs, Prof Repace said its findings could be extrapolated to cover the remaining two-thirds of Australia's population, meaning the nationwide figure could be more than 200 deaths per year.
"The levels are going to be pretty similar in other places around Australia unless their ventilation rates are wildly different from the Australian Standard," Prof Repace said in a video conference from the US.
"And nobody's going to go better than (the) code, but some places will be much lower."
Prof Repace used monitored smoke levels in pubs and clubs, workforce and medical data to develop estimates of deaths caused by occupational exposure to cigarette smoke.
Ventilation systems and exclusion zones around bars were all but useless in protecting either workers or patrons, he said.
"If you think about how molecules move through the air, the molecules are stupid - if you draw a chalk line they don't know how to stop, they keep going," Prof Repace said.
"Ventilation systems were designed to control carbon dioxide levels, ... they were never designed to control second-hand smoke, (they) never controlled the health risk."
The Cancer Council's NSW chief executive Dr Andrew Penman said the study showed the absurdity of pubs and clubs "dragging their feet" on total smoking bans.
"Pubs and clubs have fought this on the spurious grounds that it will be bad for business," Dr Penman said.
"I think the AHA (Australian Hoteliers' Association) and the clubs peak bodies need to be condemned completely on this issue."
ClubsNSW chief executive David Costello described the report as an outlandish beat-up from the anti-smoking lobby.
"The Cancer Council would be better advised spending their money helping people quit smoking," Mr Costello said.
Economic arguments against banning smoking in all workplaces held no water, Prof Repace said.