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It’s not safe to sit near smokers

Sitting near smokers in the cinema exposes you to up to ten cigarettes’ worth of smoke, a study suggests.

Researchers found that smokers can carry hazardous compounds from cigarette smoke on their clothes and skin — third-hand smoke — that is then released.

The study, carried out at Yale University, raises questions about whether regulations creating non-smoking areas do enough to minimise the risks of second and third-hand smoke.

Researchers tracked thousands of compounds in a cinema screening room over a week. They found that the volatile organic compounds found in tobacco smoke rose dramatically when audiences arrived for a film. Despite the screening room being a well-ventilated non-smoking area, the amounts were the equivalent of smoking between one and ten cigarettes in an hour.

This is the first study to demonstrate real-world third-hand smoke emissions in an indoor non-smoking environment. Years of research have shown that no level of exposure to cigarettes is safe. Public health initiatives focused on reducing second-hand exposure by banning smoking in public places, but the latest research, published in Science Advances, shows that even with no cigarette present, people are at risk of inhaling evaporated gases or dust that settles on surfaces after smoking.

Drew Gentner, associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale, said: “People are substantial carriers of third-hand smoke contaminants to other environments. The idea that someone is protected because they’re not directly exposed to second-hand smoke is not the case.”

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