Smoke-free Meetings - Tobacco Control Research: Cancer Control and Population Sciences - meetings.smokefree.gov

NCI Smoke-free Meetings Policy: Frequently Asked Questions

What do we know about the health effects of secondhand smoke exposure on adults and children?

Who remains at risk from secondhand smoke exposure?

What have communities and states done to protect their citizens from secondhand smoke exposure?

What is meant by "smoke-free?"

Why has NCI instituted a Smoke-free Meetings Policy?

When did the NCI policy go into effect?

How do I find a smoke-free location for my meeting or conference?

Is there a threshold size for meetings or conferences to which the policy applies?

What if NCI is not the sole or primary organizer or sponsor of a meeting or conference?

Does the policy cover NCI conference grants?

What are the specific circumstances that justify an exception from this policy?

Will holding the meeting at a smoke-free facility satisfy the policy?

Is it acceptable to have a meeting in a jurisdiction that has passed a comprehensive smoke-free law that has yet to take effect?

What is the process for determining if a meeting is subject to the Smoke-Free Meetings Policy?

Are NCI employees restricted from attending meetings organized or sponsored by other organizations that are held in locations that are not smoke-free?

Have any HHS agencies or other NIH institutes implemented a Smoke-free Meetings Policy?

Who can I contact if I have a question?

What do we know about the health effects of secondhand smoke exposure on adults and children?
Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), passive smoking or involuntary smoking, is formed from exhaled mainstream smoke and side-stream smoke, and contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including more than 69 known carcinogens, nicotine, and carbon monoxide.

The 2006 and 2010 report of the Surgeon General, "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke," and "How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease," respectively, provide a comprehensive analysis of the hazards of secondhand smoke exposure. Reports of the National Research Council (1986), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1992), the California Environmental Protection Agency (1997; 2005), and the National Toxicology Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (2000), among many others, have also documented the health hazards of secondhand smoke exposure.

It is estimated that, each year in the United States, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for 3,000 deaths stemming from lung cancer. Secondhand smoke exposure also causes heart disease mortality, and acute and chronic coronary heart disease morbidity. Between 30,000 and 60,000 cardiovascular deaths are attributed to secondhand smoke exposure each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause serious health problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia, in infants and children. Infants of nonsmoking pregnant women who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and decreased birth weight.

The 2006 Surgeon General's report also concluded that "there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke," and that "eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke."

In 2009, the Institute of Medicine External link disclaimer conducted a comprehensive review of the impact of smoke-free legislation and determined that "data consistently demonstrate that SHS exposure increases the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks, and that smoking bans reduce heart attacks."

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Who remains at risk from secondhand smoke exposure?
Despite enormous progress, many adults and children remain at risk from secondhand smoke exposure. According to the Cancer Trends Progress Report, in 2009, more than 70 percent of the U.S. indoor workforce was covered by a smoke-free workplace policy. Adult working men are less likely than adult working women to report being protected by smoke-free workplace policies. Similarly, 18–24-year-old working adults are less likely than working adults aged 25 years and older to be covered by such policies. Among those 25 years and older, the percentage reporting a smoke-free workplace decreases with lower levels of education. Additionally, lower-income respondents are less likely to report a smoke-free workplace.

The most recent data for the period 2005–2006 for children reveal that just over half of all children aged 4–11 years are still exposed to secondhand smoke. Nearly 40 percent of nonsmokers aged 4 years and older are still exposed to secondhand smoke.

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What have communities and states done to protect their citizens from secondhand smoke exposure?
In the United States, numerous states, counties, cities, and towns prohibit smoking in public places and indoor workplaces, including restaurants. These laws are aimed at protecting the health of employees and the general public. Several entire nations now completely prohibit smoking in indoor environments including Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and Norway, and many more are considering doing so. Smoke-free laws are largely self-enforcing and benefit nonsmokers by eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke and smokers by providing an environment that both encourages and facilitates quitting.

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What is meant by "smoke-free?"
Today, the term "smoke-free" is generally reserved for a law that provides protection for the general public and employees, by completely prohibiting smoking indoors within one or more types of facilities. Smoke-free laws specify the types of facilities they cover, for example, government buildings, day care centers, public places, workplaces, etc. Older laws commonly provided exceptions to a complete prohibition on indoor smoking; in some cases, these older laws provide very near complete protection, despite the exception. Newer laws are extending protection to facilities that were not typically included in the past, such as restaurants, bars, casinos, bingo parlors, and others. The more complete and comprehensive the protection afforded the public and employees, the greater the decrease in secondhand smoke exposure and disease risk.

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Why has NCI instituted a Smoke-free Meetings Policy?
Increasingly, health organizations recognize their exemplar role and are considering holding meetings and conferences only in jurisdictions that protect the public from secondhand smoke. Convening meetings and conferences only in smoke-free states, counties, cities, and towns allows NCI to recognize the contribution of jurisdictions that have chosen to protect the public from secondhand smoke exposure, helping to make progress toward NCI's goal of eliminating the suffering and death due to cancer.

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When did the NCI policy go into effect?
The NCI policy became effective on January 1, 2007.

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How do I find a smoke-free location for my meeting or conference?
Check the Smoke-free Jurisdictions Locator Tool to find a smoke-free location. For further assistance, please direct questions to NCISmokefree@mail.nih.gov.

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Is there a threshold size for meetings or conferences to which the policy applies?
If a meeting or conference has 20 or more attendees, it is subject to the NCI Smoke-free Meetings Policy.

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What if NCI is not the sole or primary organizer or sponsor of a meeting or conference?
The NCI policy does not apply to meetings or conferences for which NCI is not the sole or primary organizer or sponsor. However, NCI staff are asked to encourage the organizers to hold their meetings or conferences in smoke-free jurisdictions.

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Does the policy cover NCI conference grants?
Conference grants are organized at the NIH level, therefore the policy does not apply to funded conference grants. However, NCI staff are asked to encourage applicants for NCI conference grants to hold their conferences in smoke-free jurisdictions.

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What are the specific circumstances that justify an exception from this policy?
Permitted exceptions to the policy are listed below. Staff do not need to obtain permission to use one of the permitted exceptions.

  • The need to convene an NCI meeting or conference in coordination with another meeting or conference that is not sponsored by NCI, taking place in a jurisdiction that is not yet smoke-free.
  • The need to convene a site visit at an NCI supported institution (e.g., an NCI designated Cancer Center or other grantee) located in a jurisdiction that is not yet smoke-free.
  • The need to convene a meeting in close proximity to a special population group (e.g., a Tribal community) located in a specific region that is not yet smoke-free.
  • The requirements of the Competition in Contracting Act (41 U.S.C. sec. 253).
  • The requirements of the Federal Travel Regulations (41 U.S.C. sec. 301).

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Will holding the meeting at a smoke-free facility satisfy the policy?
No. It is not sufficient for a meeting or conference facility alone to be smoke free. The policy requires that the meeting facility be located in a state, county, city, or town that is smoke-free. This is because the primary purpose of the NCI policy is to recognize the contribution of jurisdictions that have chosen to protect the public and employees from secondhand smoke exposure.

Use the Smoke-free Jurisdictions Locator Tool to find a smoke-free location. For further assistance, please direct questions to NCISmokefree@mail.nih.gov.

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Is it acceptable to have a meeting in a jurisdiction that has passed a comprehensive smoke-free law that has yet to take effect?
No. A jurisdiction is not considered smoke-free by NCI’s criteria until, and unless, its law has taken effect.

Use the Smoke-free Jurisdictions Locator Tool to find a smoke-free location. For further assistance, please direct questions to NCISmokefree@mail.nih.gov.

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What is the process for determining if a meeting is subject to the Smoke-Free Meetings Policy?
To summarize, a meeting or conference is subject to the new policy if:

  1. NCI is the sole or primary organizer or sponsor of the meeting
  2. The number of attendees is 20 or greater
  3. It does not fall under one of the stated exceptions (see question 11)

If your meeting is subject to the new policy, please visit the Smoke-free Jurisdictions Locator Tool for a comprehensive list of smoke-free states, counties, cities, and towns.

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Are NCI employees restricted from attending meetings organized or sponsored by other organizations that are held in jurisdictions that are not yet smoke-free?
No. The NCI Smoke-free Meetings Policy is focused only on the location of meetings or conferences organized or sponsored by NCI and is not intended to affect staff’s ability to travel to other meetings or conferences.

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Have any HHS agencies or other NIH institutes implemented a Smoke-free Meetings Policy?
Yes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have enacted policies requiring that their meetings be held in smoke-free jurisdictions.

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Who can I contact if I have a question?
Please send your question via e-mail to: NCISmokefree@mail.nih.gov.

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Last Updated: January 14, 2011

 

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