Changes in exposure of adult non-smokers to secondhand smoke after implementation of smoke-free legislation in Scotland: national cross sectional surveyBMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39315.670208.47 (Published 13 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:549
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We read with great interest the article by Haw and colleague documenting the reduction in exposure to second-hand smoke since the implementation of smoke-free legislation in Scotland. On 29th March 2004 the Republic of Ireland became the first country in the world to implement a comprehensive ban on smoking in all enclosed workplaces and as the authors point out, their findings reflect those documented following the Irish ban,.
The pub session (or seisiún in Gaelic), where musicians gather to play traditional music together, is commonplace throughout bars in Ireland. The musicians and the instruments involved in these sessions are now exposed to smoke-free surroundings in contrast to the smoky Irish pub environment before the smoking ban. Instruments frequently seen in sessions include the accordion, concertina, melodeon and Uilleann (or Irish) bagpipes, all of which are bellows-driven instruments. Compression and expansion of the bellows in these instruments generate air-flow across reeds, which vibrate to make sound. On an accordion, a keyboard or buttons control which reeds receive air-flow and therefore the tones produced. As the instrument is played, air from the surroundings is taken in on expansion and expelled on compression of the bellows. Likewise, any pollutant in the air, such as cigarette smoke, is circulated through the instrument in a similar manner.
There is anecdotal evidence that the interiors of accordions played regularly in smoke-filled environments are dirtied as a result of the trapping of contaminant particles circulating in the air as it filters through the instrument. We conducted a telephone survey of all workers involved in the cleaning, repair, maintenance and renovation of accordions in the Republic of Ireland. We managed successfully to contact 6 out of 7 such workers. All participants in the survey pointed out that a strong smell of cigarette smoke emanated from accordions played in a smoke-filled environment when they are opened. Soot-like dirt is also deposited throughout the instrument but particularly where air enters the bellows through the air inlet valve and on the reeds. One accordion repairer commented that the deposition of dirt could be substantial enough to affect the pitch of the reed. Two others claimed that if a musician tended to play in a particular key, that this could be determined from the distribution of dirt around particular reeds. All who were questioned stated categorically that these signs had definitely improved in accordions they had worked on since the introduction of the smoking ban in Ireland.
We believe this novel observation provides further information on the beneficial effects of smoke-free legislation in reducing second-hand smoke exposure in Irish pubs, and despite its simplicity, we believe it reflects the reality of the smoking ban in Ireland. The smoking ban has improved air quality in Irish bars and its implementation in the face of initial opposition has been music to the ears of the people of Ireland!
 Haw SJ, Gruer L. Changes in exposure of adult non-smokers to secondhand smoke after implementation of smoke-free legislation in Scotland: national cross sectional survey. BMJ. 2007 Sep 15;335(7619):549.
 Goodman P, Agnew M, McCaffrey M, Paul G, Clancy L. Effects of the Irish smoking ban on respiratory health of bar workers and air quality in Dublin pubs. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 2007; 175(8):840-5. PMID: 17204724
 Mulcahy M, Evans DS, Hammond SK, Repace JL, Byrne M. Secondhand smoke exposure and risk following the Irish smoking ban: an assessment of salivary cotinine concentrations in hotel workers and air nicotine levels in bars. Tob Control. 2005 Dec;14(6):384-8. PMID: 16319361
Competing interests: No competing interests