Nonsmoking Hotel Rooms Aren’t Really Smoke-Free

That hotel you have booked for your upcoming getaway? You might want to double-check whether there are any smoking rooms in the place—even if you requested a nonsmoking room: You can get third-hand smoke exposure from staying in a nonsmoking room if the hotel has other rooms where lighting up is allowed, according to new research published in Tobacco Control.

For the study, participants checked into a sample of rooms in 40 California hotels: 10 that had complete smoking bans, and 30 in which smoking was only banned in certain rooms. Researchers then tested surfaces and air in the rooms for tobacco smoke pollutants. The participants also stayed overnight in the guest rooms and then had their urine and fingers tested for exposure to nicotine and the tobacco-specific carcinogen 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone.

The test results showed that the nonsmoking rooms of hotels with partial bans had 40 percent higher air nicotine levels than the rooms in hotels with complete bans. While that’s much, much lower than the 2,100 percent higher levels that researchers found in designated smoking rooms, it’s still concerning, says study author Georg E. Matt, PhD, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University—especially since nonsmokers who stayed in the hotels with partial bans also had higher levels of contaminants from tobacco in their finger swipe and urine samples.

“Lo and behold, designation policy doesn’t really work,” he says. “We learned that tobacco smoke spreads throughout an entire hotel.”

While this study didn’t examine the health consequences of spending the night in a hotel with a partial smoking ban, previous research suggests that continued exposure to third-hand smoke can cause DNA damage that might lead to certain types of cancer.

That said, you don’t have to freak out if you’ve stayed at a hotel that allows smoking in certain rooms—or if it’s too late to change your upcoming reservations without losing your money.

“If you have a healthy young adult without any respiratory or heart conditions who stays in a hotel room one night in a designated nonsmoking room, I would not expect any great health outcomes,” says Matt. “But if you have, for instance, a hotel worker who every day for six to eight hours spends time in designated nonsmoking rooms, that’s a different story.”

People with asthma or other respiratory problems may want to be particularly diligent about seeking out 100 percent smoke-free hotels, says Matt. Even if that’s not you, asking a hotel if it allows smoking in any of its rooms—and choosing not to stay at ones that do—may help encourage change in the industry.

“It’s key that we turn these hotels into 100 percent smoke-free environments to protect hotel workers, as well as to protect nonsmoking guests,” says Matt.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
What Smoking Does to Your Body
7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Cancer
Put Down the Hookah!

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Get This: Colleges Aren’t Taking Assault Seriously

Check out the list of links that should be on your radar today:

Activists are pushing colleges and universities to take a stricter stance against sexual assault. Fingers crossed that the schools listen. [USA Today]

H&M’s new ads feature plus-size swimsuit models—without making a big deal about the fact that they’re plus-size (aka, normal-size). [Jezebel]

The exciting updates about season four of Arrested Development just keep coming in. The latest: Apparently John Krasinski is set to do a cameo. [Vulture]

All that caffeine being added to your gum and snacks lately? The FDA is worried that it might be dangerous. [AP]

Women aren’t the only one who body-shame themselves. Men can also have a negative body image—and it makes them less optimistic about finding a girl. [Huffington Post]

Reports of ground turkey infected with superbugs have cropped up in 21 states. Find out how to protect yourself from food contamination[Reuters]

In news you’ll want to hide from your boyfriends and husbands, a new company called Wool & Prince has created a men’s dress shirt designed to be worn for 90 days straight without wrinkling or smelling bad. [The Frisky]

Ray J’s new music video for his song “I Hit It First” (ugh) features a woman who looks eerily similar to Kim Kardashian. What a “coincidence.” [Huffington Post]

Japanese reachers say an antibiotic may help men stay faithful. Or, you know, they could just choose not to cheat. [Medical Daily]

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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When Whole Grains Aren’t Healthy

Think eating whole grains is always a healthy choice? Take a closer look at the nutrition label. Some products labeled with “whole grain” lingo aren’t nearly as healthy as you think they are. In fact, products with the yellow Whole Grain Stamp—a symbol many look for to make healthy picks—are typically the least nutritious, found a recent Harvard School of Public Health study. After evaluating 545 whole grain products and tallying up their nutritional components, researchers found that products donning the label were higher in sugar and calories, and had a heftier price tag, than whole grain products without it.

By law, any product advertising itself as “whole grain” must have at least 51 percent whole grain by weight. However, the remaining 49 percent can include refined grains, and other not-so-good-for-you ingredients. While eating whole grains products, which are rich in fiber and vitamins, can help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity, refined grains can lead to the onset of the same conditions, making it vital to know how to distinguish the good from the bad.

Step one: Read the nutrition label and ingredients list, says Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, founder of, a service that offers consumers a personalized way to discover and learn about the best nutrition products on the market. Here, Bauer shares simple rules for how to interpret what you’re reading.

Don’t be fooled by fancy language
Ideally, the product should be 100 percent whole grain. Words and phrases like: “Whole bran,” “Multi-grain,” “Made with whole grain,” “A healthy source of whole grain,” and “Made with wheat,” don’t ensure a healthy pick–these terms aren’t regulated by the government, so they don’t actually mean anything. Typically these slogans are printed on the packages to confuse consumers, Bauer says.

Check the order
The first ingredient on the label should be whole grains, but don’t stop scanning there. If sugar or trans fat is the second or third ingredient, it’s better to skip it, she says. The higher up an ingredient is on the list, the more of it is present in the food. So sugar or trans fat in second or third place could mean that you’re eating a whole lot of unnecessary bad-for-you filler.

Follow the 10:1 ratio rule
Check the fiber content and the carb count. For every ten grams of total carbohydrates there needs to be at least one gram of fiber. “If the product has 30g of carbohydrates, it must have at least 3 grams of fiber to fit the bill,” says Bauer. Foods that met the 10:1 ratio tend to have less sugar, sodium, and trans fats than those that didn’t, found the Harvard researchers.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
Slimming Whole Grain Recipes
Fiber-Packed Food That Helps You Lose Weight
The Healthiest Breakfast Cereals

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