ASHRAE Tells Engineers: When it Comes to Smoke, Follow Local Codes

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff August 24, 2005

What do engineers need to know to balance the health impacts of smoking with the desires of building owners and with local laws and regulations?

According to a new position document from ASHRAE, engineers should abide by local regulations and codes addressing environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The organization also takes the position that designers should educate their clients about the substantial limitations and available benefits of engineering controls.

ASHRAE’s Environmental Tobacco Smoke Position Document provides information on the health consequences of exposure of nonsmokers to tobacco smoke in indoor environments, and on the implications of this knowledge for the design, installation and operation of HVAC systems.

While ASHRAE realizes that elimination of indoor smoking is the best way to minimize ETS exposure, it also recognizes that much of the population is exposed to ETS in workplaces, homes and public places.

As such, the Society recommends that engineers work with clients to address ETS exposure. Engineers should take into account all laws and regulations in regard to indoor smoking and develop a strategy that will result in the lowest ETS exposure to building occupants within the context of building use.

The document outlines four design and operation approaches to addressing ETS exposure in buildings:

• Banning smoking indoors

• Only allowing smoking in isolated rooms

• Allowing smoking in separate but not isolated spaces

• Allowing a mixed occupancy of smokers and nonsmokers

The document also contains information on characteristics and concentrations of ETS in indoor spaces, health effects of involuntary smoking and considerations related to HVAC system design and operation. Among ASHRAE’s findings are:

• It is the consensus of the medical community and its cognizant authorities that ETS is a health risk, causing lung cancer and heart disease in adults, and exacerbation of asthma, lower respiratory illnesses and other adverse effects on the respiratory health of children.

• Currently, the only way to effectively eliminate health risk associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity.

• Although complete separation and isolation of smoking rooms can control ETS exposure in non-smoking spaces in the same building, adverse health effects for the occupants of the smoking room cannot be controlled by ventilation.

• No other engineering approaches, including current and advanced dilution ventilation or air-cleaning technologies, have been demonstrated or should be relied on to control health risks from ETS exposure in spaces where smoking occurs. Some engineering measures may reduce that exposure and the corresponding risk to some degree while also addressing to some extent the comfort issues of odor and some forms of irritation.

• An increasing number of local and national governments, as well as many private building owners, are implementing bans on indoor smoking.

• Because of ASHRAE’s mission to act for the benefit of the public, it encourages elimination of smoking in the indoor environment as the optimal way to minimize ETS exposure.

To obtain a free copy of the ASHRAE Environmental Tobacco Smoke Position Document, go to “position documents” at .