Objectives: In California, state law now prohibits smoking in most public places. We examined the prevalence and short-term health impact of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure during travel among adults with asthma.
Design, setting, and participants: A cohort of 374 nonsmoking adults with asthma recruited from a random sample of allergy, pulmonary, and family practice physicians in northern California underwent structured telephone interviews.
Measurements and results: The prevalence of self-reported ETS exposure during travel in the past 12 months was substantial (30%; 95% confidence interval, 25 to 35%). Of the exposed subjects, approximately one third (34%) indicated no other regular source of ETS exposure. ETS-related cough, wheezing, or chest tightness during travel was the most common complaint (66%), followed by eye irritation (46%) and nose irritation (43%). After ETS exposure, many subjects indicated extra inhaled asthma medication use (55%). Subjects with no other regular ETS exposure reported a greater likelihood of eye irritation (58% vs 40%; p = 0.068) and nose irritation (58% vs 36%; p = 0.025) than persons with regular exposure. In contrast, there were no differences in respiratory symptoms, asthma medication use, or asthma exacerbation by regular ETS exposure status.
Conclusions: In adults with asthma, ETS exposure is common during travel. For many subjects, travel is their principal source of exposure.