Sunday, July 04, 2010

Martin Pion's reply and my answer

Dear Bill,

Thank you for copying me on your e-mail to Diana Benanti of the Smoke-Free St. Louis City Coalition.

As a physicist who has spent considerable time studying the effectiveness of ventilation systems at eliminating the risks posed by secondhand smoke I disagree strongly with your conclusion. Ventilation systems may reduce the risk but not to an acceptable level. Only a totally smoke-free environment in a building can do that.

I have the data to back this up, obtained by an independent environmental consulting company for Missouri GASP, but it has never been published in a peer-reviewed journal. I hope to get around to submitting it as a paper one day, but I have no doubt as to its validity.

However, another peer-reviewed paper I coauthored that also relates to the effectiveness of smoking rooms and some of the same basic science was published in March 2004 by the British Medical Journal in it's international publication Tobacco Control under the title "Airport smoking rooms don't work" and may be found here:


Martin Pion, B.Sc.
President, Missouri GASP

Dear Mr. Pion,

No one argues that any ventilation or filtration system can perfectly eliminate smoke exposure in a space where people are smoking. But we based our campaign against the St. Louis City and County smoking ban on the belief that air filtration and air cleaning systems, such as those installed at Herbie's Vintage 72, could hugely reduce the presence of all secondhand smoke components in bar air including all carcinogens and all gases.

It is very distressing to realize that Clayton and St. Louis City aldermen and County Councilmen were being told all along that the effect of our air cleaning and filtration systems was merely cosmetic and that dangerous particles and gases were readily passing through the air filtration and air cleaning machines back into bar air. The implication is that the machines at Herbie's only made the situation more hazardous by removing the sight and smell of smoke, thereby making patrons and workers feel comfortable and safe, yet allowing threatening particles and gases to accumulate!

I would like to know if Smoke Free St. Louis has any evidence for this charge against air filtration and air cleaning technology. Clearly their misrepresentation has already hurt local air filtration companies and will hurt the St. Louis bars and restaurants which have installed this air cleaning and filtration technology come January.

Bill Hannegan