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February 10, 1989

Passive Smoking on Commercial Airline Flights

JAMA. 1989;261(6):867-872. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420060083037

In-flight exposure to nicotine, urinary cotinine levels, and symptom self-reports were assessed in a study of nine subjects (five passengers and four attendants) on four routine commercial flights each of approximately four hours' duration. Urine samples were collected for 72 hours following each flight. Exposures to nicotine measured during the flights using personal exposure monitors were found to be variable, with some nonsmoking areas attaining levels comparable to those in smoking sections. Attendants assigned to work in nonsmoking areas were not protected from smoke exposure. The type of aircraft ventilation was important in determining the levels of in-flight nicotine exposure. The environmental tobacco smoke levels that occurred produced measurable levels of cotinine (a major metabolite of nicotine) in the urine of passengers and attendants. Passengers who experienced the greatest smoke exposure had the highest levels of urinary continine. Changes in eye and nose symptoms between the beginning and end of the flights were significantly related both to nicotine exposure during the flight and to the subsequent urinary excretion of cotinine. In addition, subjects' perceptions of annoyance and smokiness in the airplane cabin were also related to in-flight nicotine exposure and urinary excretion measures.

(JAMA 1989;261:867-872)