Tob Control doi:10.1136/tc.2011.043356
  • Research paper

Exposure to tobacco smoke before and after a partial smoking ban in prison: indoors air quality measures

  1. Bernice S Elger1
  1. 1University Centre of Legal Medicine of Geneva and Lausanne, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2Institute for Work and Health (IST), Lausanne, Switzerland
  3. 3Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Catherine Ritter, University Center of Legal Medicine of Geneva and Lausanne, Rue Michel-Servet 1, CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland; catherine.ritter{at}
  1. Contributors ‘I Catherine Ritter the Corresponding Author of this article contained within the original manuscript which includes any diagrams & photographs and any related or stand alone film submitted (the Contribution) has the right to grant on behalf of all authors and does grant on behalf of all authors, an exclusive licence on a worldwide basis to the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and its licensees, to permit this Contribution (if accepted) to be published in Tobacco Control and any other BMJPGL products to exploit all subsidiary rights, as set out in the licence (’.

  • Received 31 January 2011
  • Accepted 5 July 2011
  • Published Online First 11 August 2011


Although exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) is reportedly high in prison, few studies have measured this in the prison environment, and none have done so in Europe. We measured two indicators of SHS exposure (particulate matter PM10 and nicotine) in fixed locations before (2009) and after (2010) introduction of a partial smoking ban in a Swiss prison. Access to smoking cessation support was available to detainees throughout the study.

Objectives To measure SHS before and after the introduction of a partial smoking ban.

Methods Assessment of particulate matter PM10 (suspended microparticles of 10 μm) and nicotine in ambient air, collected by real-time aerosol monitor and nicotine monitoring devices.

Results The authors observed a significant improvement of nicotine concentrations in the air after the introduction of the smoking ban (before: 7.0 μg/m3, after: 2.1 μg/m3, difference 4.9 μg/m3, 95% CI for difference: 0.52 to 9.8, p=0.03) but not in particulate matter PM10 (before: 0.11 mg/m3, after: 0.06 mg/m3, difference 0.06 mg/m3, 95% CI for difference of means: −0.07 to 0.19, p=0.30).

Conclusions The partial smoking ban was followed by a decrease in nicotine concentrations in ambient air. These improvements can be attributed to the introduction of the smoking ban since no other policy change occurred during this period. Although this shows that concentrations of SHS decreased significantly, protection was still incomplete and further action is necessary to improve indoor air quality.


  • Funding Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (Tobacco Prevention Fund).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the research project was presented to the ethical commissions of Bern where the study took place and formally accepted. Parts of the study involved patients but not the results that are presented in this submission.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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