Washington, February 9 : A Michigan State University physician has highlighted the adverse health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) as well as a number of issues regarding safety in the workplace in his report, following the death of a young asthmatic woman shortly after she arrived at a bar to work as a waitress.
The report states that the woman seemed happy and healthy when she arrived at the bar in Michigan, according to her co-workers. About 15 or 20 minutes later she collapsed, and within a few minutes died, the report adds.
"This is the first reported acute asthma death associated with work-related ETS. Recent studies of air quality and asthma among bar and restaurant workers before and after smoking bans support this association," said Kenneth Rosenman, a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
In 2006, Rosenman concluded in a general report that ETS causes coronary heart disease, lung cancer and premature death. However, there was little hard evidence linking ETS to the exacerbation of asthma in adults at that time.
His present report stresses that this case provides plenty of evidence to link second-hand smoke to this death.
"The autopsy clearly indicates she died from asthma. There was no other cause of death. Her death is consistent with what we know about exposures in bars like this. We know asthmatics are more susceptible to irritants and other particulates in the air," Rosenman said.
"We know that particulate levels from second-hand cigarette smoke in bars like this reach sufficient levels to set off an asthma attack," he added.
Rosenman also expressed his concern about the long-term effects of ETS on employees without pre-existing conditions like asthma.
"As a consumer, I don't have to go into that bar. But is it a safe environment for the employees? We have federal laws that say employers have to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This was clearly not a safe and healthy workplace for this employee," he said.
"This death dramatizes the need to enact legal protections for workers in the hospitality industry from second-hand smoke," he added.
Rosenman also disapproved bar and restaurant owners' argument that a smoking ban would hurt business.
"Consider that 75 percent of the population doesn't smoke. Banning smoking could actually serve to increase business. Studies of restaurants and bars in Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Washington D.C. all show business up since they banned smoking. Chicago went smoke free the beginning of this year," he said.
"We're behind the times if we want to attract tourists and help businesses be more profitable," he added.
Rosenman's report has come at a time when a number of US states, including Michigan, are considering banning smoking in restaurants and bars.
The project was funded by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.