Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What really happens to air quality after a smoking ban

Most people do not realize it, but many bars and restaurants do update their ventilation / filtration systems to accomodate smoking. However, once smoking bans are mandated your neighborhood establishment is less likely to invest in updated ventilation or filtration systems for two reasons:

A) revenues have decreased since the implementation of smoking bans

and / or

B) the perception is that the air is cleaner so there is no need

However the unseen benefit of a state of the art air filtration system is that bacteria, viruses, and other airborne pathogens are also eliminated along with the tobacco smoke.........eliminate the perceived need for updated ventilation and you naturally increase the health hazard for bacteria, viruses, and other airborne pathogens at your favorite eating and drinking establishment. 

A commentator and former aircraft mechanic of 30 years shared this experience after airlines voluntarily went non-smoking: 

I could if I had two hours, describe to you in great technical detail how the ventilation system works in modern jet passenger aircraft. But leaving out the finer details, all jet aircraft cabin ventilation systems work basically on the same principle, whether a tiny Lear jet or a 747. 

The system can be set to completely renew the cabin air every minute, but at the cost of fuel efficiency. That is why the airlines were mainly not reticent about smoking bans, and why many airlines opted for the bans before being forced to do so. Simply put, it has saved them literally millions of dollars in fuel costs over "X" number of flight hours. It had nothing to do with the health or comfort of their passengers. It had everything to do with their bottom line.
How does this work? If the pilot decides he wants the cabin to be well ventilated with all the air in the cabin to be renewed, say, every five minutes, he makes the corresponding setting and the computer does the rest. 

Now that you can no longer smoke in flight, the pilots have received the directive to minimize the fresh air cycles. The effect is that once the cabin is pressurized, the outflow valve essentially closes and stays closed for a much longer duration than it would if you wanted to keep introducing (smoke clearing) fresh air at faster intervals. As a result, the bleed air valve asks for less air from the engine(s). With the bleed air solicited to a minimum, the engine uses less fuel, hence the savings in fuel. 

Personally, I am qualified to say that the air quality on non-smoking flights, especially long flights, might be smoke free, but it sure as hell is full of every free floating bacteria and virus 220 people can emit over a length of time in a sealed cylinder. 
Thanks to non-smoking flight your average aircraft cabin is one big seething petri dish. 

Extremely good point Eric.....the hospitality industry is reacting in exactly the same manner. Thanks to smoking bans eliminating the need to upgrade air filtration systems, your average bar/restaurant is one big seething petri dish.

Bon apetit

After implementing smoking bans, massive numbers of bars & restaurants have closed due to revenue losses, tossing hundreds of thousands of employees in the unemployment line. 

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