Effectiveness of Smoke-Free Policies

Second-hand smoke contains carcinogens, such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene, benzo[a]pyrene, and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone. Inhalation of second-hand smoke is now well documented as causing harm to health, including lung cancer and cardiovascular disease in adults, respiratory disease in adults and children, and sudden infant death syndrome. Smoke-free policies include legislative and other measures to protect against harmful exposure to second-hand smoke and are an integral part of the World Health Organization Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

From March 31 to April 5, 2008, a Working Group of 17 scientists from nine countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France, to assess the evidence for the effectiveness of such policies. Members of the Working Group were selected on the basis of their expertise, geographical representation, availability, and absence of declared real or apparent conflicts of interest, on the basis of the completed WHO’s declaration-of-interest form.

The Working Group started with a comprehensive assessment of the peer-reviewed published work and accessible governmental reports on the effects of such policies. This assessment included an outlining of different variations in these policies, a review of population attitudes to and compliance with such policies, and an analysis of the effectiveness of these policies in decreasing second-hand smoke exposure and modifying smoking behaviours. This assessment will be published as Volume 13 of the IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention series.

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July 2008

  • John P Pierce
  • María E León