Friday, November 23, 2007

How Nasty is Cigar Smoke? A Canadian Reseacher Goes Undercover to Find Out

Now that I've become an Uncle for the first time, I feel a responsibility to blog about important topics rather than trivia. So, I'd like to talk about ambient particulate levels at Cigar Bars. As discussed below, one brave Canadian went deep undercover to measure the ambient pollution at a hotel filled with puffers. The article doesn't mention if Ed Glaeser was there or not.

From a "Green Cities" perspective it has crossed my mind that the decline in smoking in U.S center cities hasn't hurt ambient carbon monoxide and particulate levels. I haven't seen a study trying to measure this trend's contribution to helping to mitigate ambient pollution.

New York Times
November 22, 2007
At a Cigar Show, an Air-Quality Scientist Under Deep, Smoky Cover

By SARAH KERSHAW
The agitators met a few blocks from the target at a secret location, so as not to call attention to the devices in their bags.

They synchronized their watches. They reviewed the well-rehearsed game plan: If their bags were searched, the first operative, known as “Researcher 1 (female),” would say the device was for an asthma condition. If she was not allowed into the event with the device, she would activate Plan B: go to the ladies’ room and strap it to her body.

The man behind the subterfuge (Researcher 2, male) was Ryan David Kennedy, 34, a scrappy Canadian graduate student with crooked glasses who is studying the impact of tobacco on air quality.

He crossed the border at Buffalo on Monday morning and on Tuesday crashed the giant cigar party and trade show sponsored by the publisher of Cigar Aficionado magazine at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

A nonsmoking vegetarian posing as a cigar lover, Mr. Kennedy was nervous. Canadians are, for the most part, known to be earnest, demure and very law-abiding.

“I think I’m being watched,” he said before the event, known as the Big Smoke, which drew hundreds of cigar lovers and peddlers into a ballroom on the hotel’s sixth floor. He said he strongly believed his room at the Marriott had been searched.

Mr. Kennedy, who holds a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Waterloo in Ontario and is working on a doctorate in psychology there, soon found himself in the belly of decadence. The ballroom was swarming with stogies — Bolivar, Ashton, Don Tomas and a dozen other brands — whiskey, tequila and exotic dancers.

Mr. Kennedy, who has also researched the level of particulate matter produced by smoking tobacco on outdoor patios, and Kerri Ryan (Researcher 1), a friend from college who lives in New York, sneaked their devices in the door. (Mr. Kennedy’s professor used a discretionary fund to cover the costs of the event tickets — $400 each — and other expenses.)

A tiny white plastic tube protruding from each of their bags like a hidden microphone took in the air, which was then measured for particles by the device, known as a Sidepak. The device can log 516 minutes of air sampling before the battery runs out, and is a well-established method for detecting dust and smoke.

Mr. Kennedy measured the particles in the air on Monday to obtain a baseline before the cigar smokers descended. Then on Tuesday he tested the air inside the ballroom and in various places outside the cigar party — at the elevators, in guest rooms and in the lobby. To log enough data on the air, he would need to stand in one place for 5 or 10 minutes and look busy.

If Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Ryan were lurking in one place for too long, perhaps seeming suspicious to security guards, they would say loudly, “We’re waiting for Sally.”

It was easy for Mr. Kennedy to prove his thesis: that plumes of cigar smoke lead to high levels of particulate matter in the air.

Marriott Hotels announced in July that it was making all of its hotels 100 percent smoke-free, but it has made an exception for the Big Smoke.

Opponents of smoking working with Mr. Kennedy said the exception was a glaring violation of the hotel’s own policy.

“The event is really a flagrant contradiction to their commitment to their guests and employees,” said Louise Vetter, president of the American Lung Association of the City of New York and a spokeswoman for the New York City Coalition for a Smoke-Free City. “The dangers of secondhand smoke are indisputable, and in New York City it is law to protect workers from secondhand smoke. We applauded Marriott, but to have this event in New York City and to create an exception — there’s no exception for public health.”

Under the state law, smoking is banned in most indoor places, including the Marriott ballroom (though there is no legal ban on smoking in guest rooms). But the law allows an exception for tobacco promotional events “where the public is invited for the primary purpose of promoting and sampling tobacco products.”

Cigar bars that were open in the city before Dec. 31, 2002, and can prove that they generated at least 10 percent of their gross income from the sale of tobacco products are also exempt; they can extend their registration each year if they continue to meet those criteria and do not expand or change location.

Kathleen Duffy, a spokeswoman for Marriott Hotels, said the company was honoring a longstanding contract with the publisher of Cigar Aficionado, Marvin R. Shanken, and had been the host of the Big Smoke at the Marriott Marquis for at least 10 years.

“We are not going out and booking smoking events at any of our hotels,” she said. “We did announce we would be smoke-free, but with this client we had an obligation.”

She said “we tripled our efforts” to keep the smoke contained, banning smoking outside the ballroom and increasing the filtration in the room, so that the smoke was funneled outside the hotel through air vents.

Under Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, air with fewer than 15 micrograms per cubic meter is considered good quality; air with more than 251 micrograms per cubic meter is hazardous.

Mr. Kennedy’s preliminary findings showed that the average level of particulate matter in the hotel the day before the event was 8 micrograms per cubic meter, 40 micrograms where he was waiting to get in line for the event and 1,193 micrograms inside the ballroom.

About 10 p.m., after one last measurement — “Elevators, 9:44!” Mr. Kennedy said to his assistant — he was bloodshot and stinky, but he declared the experiment a success.

1 comment :

harry said...

Mr. Kennedy was just wasting his time. no matter where the cigar is smoked, it is not Nasty. especially for the cigar lovers. and see this experiment was held in Canada where most of the cigar lovers like to smoke cuban cigars, they like the aroma of these cigars and how will they say it nasty. and it is clear that the tobacco is bad for environment but no cigar lover will mind it.