Using Indoor Air Quality Monitoring in 6 Counties to Change Policy in North Carolina
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Using Indoor Air Quality Monitoring in 6 Counties to Change Policy in North Carolina

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      Prev Chronic Dis
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      Introduction Indoor air quality monitoring has become a valuable tool for states wanting to assess levels of particulate matter before and after smoke-free policies are implemented. However, many states face barriers in passing comprehensive smoke-free legislation, making such study comparisons unlikely. We used indoor air monitoring data to educate decision makers about the value of comprehensive smoke-free laws in a state with strong historical ties to tobacco. Methods We trained teams in 6 counties in North Carolina to monitor air quality in hospitality venues with 1 of 3 possible smoking policy designations: 1) smoke-free, 2) separate smoking and nonsmoking sections (mixed), or 3) smoking allowed in all areas. Teams monitored 152 venues for respirable suspended particles that were less than 2.5 μm in diameter and collected information on venue characteristics. The data were combined and analyzed by venue policy and by county. Our findings were presented to key decision makers, and we then collected information on media publicity about these analyses. Results Overall, smoke-free venues had the lowest particulate matter levels (15 µg/m3), well below established Environmental Protection Agency standards. Venues with mixed policies and venues that permitted smoking in all areas had particulate matter levels that are considered unhealthy by Environmental Protection Agency standards. The media coverage of our findings included newspaper, radio, and television reports. Findings were also discussed with local health directors, state legislators, and public health advocates. Conclusion Study data have been used to quantify particulate matter levels, raise awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke, build support for evidence-based policies, and promote smoke-free policies among policy makers. The next task is to turn this effort into meaningful policy change that will protect everyone from the harms of secondhand smoke.
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