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Workers in eastern coffeehouses suffer effects of ETS

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Researchers in Turkey have called for a ban on smoking in public places to be extended to coffeehouses, after their study showed a raised occupational risk of airway disease among workers there. This is the first study of its kind in the East, with wide ranging implications for countries where coffeehouses are part of the fabric of society, especially among unemployed and lower middle socioeconomic groups.

Coffeehouse workers—all men—were over five times more likely to have airway disease on the basis of symptoms, clinical findings, and lung function tests than other male workers in small shops nearby when confounding factors had been corrected for. The link was robust despite the high rate of smoking among both groups (86% and 76%, respectively). Comparing only smokers and correcting for pack years of smoking reduced the risk only slightly (odds ratio 4.99), showing that working in coffeehouses with their crowded, smoky atmosphere is an independent risk for airway disease. The two groups were broadly similar in mean years worked and time worked each week. Shopworkers worked in smaller premises, but their customers did not spend hours there smoking.

The cross sectional study drew on workers from three metropolitan districts of Izmir, 114 workers from 76 coffeehouses and 93 workers from 80 small shops with no known occupational risk factor for lung disease.

Data to support the likely damaging effects of environmental tobacco smoke were needed because eastern coffeehouses are different from western bars and restaurants, where previous research has been done.