Air Quality Expectations

Posted on October 17, 2011


While traveling in the Atlanta airport last week, something strange happened:  I walked into a restaurant serving breakfast that allowed smoking.

I had just landed in the D concourse after the early flight from Jacksonville, about 7:40am.  I had already been up for several hours, and with a decent layover, I thought I would grab some breakfast. I walked into the closest place and was asked “smoking or non-smoking”—something I have not been queried in years. I should have walked out, but I had really low blood sugar. How bad could it be, right? What was more shocking was that I was put in a token non-smoking section; you know the kind, with the invisible wall that magically keeps the smoke from the tables that are 15 feet away from entering your eyes, clothes and nose.  I thought I was back in a Waffle House in my college days.

I may be spoiled a bit living in Florida, where residents have the protection of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act to ensure fresh air anywhere we go inside. But let’s face it:  legislated or not, breathing second-hand smoke is not acceptable anywhere anymore. And where is does appear, voting should be done with feet, and dollars taken elsewhere.

For hospitals, this means making your campus non-smoking. It is hyp0critical to think smoke would be found anywhere near a healing environment, indoors or out. LEED pushes smoking outside the building, but even smoke shacks banished to the fringe of the parking lot are not good enough. Smoking has no place on hospital grounds, period.

And hospitals that allow smoking inside, even unofficially in dedicated lounge spaces, or cafeterias—and I know there are still probably a few stubborn facilities out there somewhere—need to invest in serious air treatment to keep it livable for the rest of us.

Hospitals (and restaurants) can learn a thing or two from casinos. Casinos are smart about air filtration; they invest in state-of-the-art systems (I hear Trane has a good one) to suck the smoke out, filter, and get a maximum amount of air changes because they do not want to alienate either smokers or non-smokers at their establishment. To them it means big bucks.  To hospitals it should mean the same.

Outdoor air quality is not in anyone’s specific control, yet high indoor air quality is expected most everywhere—and expecially where food is served and establishments of healthcare. Regardless of state law or local ordinance, up the ante and do all of your patients, visitors and employees a favor at the same time:  require a smokefree campus. But if not, at least spend the money to make it seem smokefree.