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Exposure to tobacco smoke before and after a partial smoking ban in prison: indoor air quality measures
  1. Catherine Ritter1,
  2. Cong Khanh Huynh2,
  3. Jean-François Etter3,
  4. 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}


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.

  • Smoking
  • prison
  • secondhand smoke
  • nicotine
  • particulate matter
  • environmental tobacco smoke

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  • 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.