Measuring exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS): A developing country's perspective


Aims: To assess exposure to ETS among nonsmokers in the community and examine the relation between various subjective and objective measures of exposure to ETS in a developing country's setting. Methods: An interviewer-administered population-based survey of adults 18-65 years residing in Aleppo, Syria. From a total number of 2038 participants, a sub-sample of 419 nonsmokers (27.2% men, 72.8% women, mean age 34 years) underwent subjective and objective assessment of exposure to ETS (saliva cotinine, breath CO, self-reported measures of exposure combined into ETS exposure scale). Results: Overall, 97.6% of adults nonsmokers assessed in this study, 72.9% of whom were women, have detectable saliva cotinine levels (mean ± SD 1.7 ± 1.5 ng/ml). Correlation between self-reported exposure measures and saliva cotinine was moderate with the strongest observed for number of cigarette smokers in the house, average number of cigarettes smoked daily in the house, house policy regarding smoking, and total ETS score (r 0.3-0.4). These same variables were among the best predictors of saliva cotinine according to stepwise linear regression analysis, but their individual relevance differed between men and women reflecting underlying differences in gender-based behavior-mobility patterns. Generally, subjective measures could explain 22% of the variability in cotinine levels in men and 19% in women. Conclusions: Exposure to ETS is universal among adult nonsmokers in Syria. Saliva cotinine correlated moderately with self-reported measures, whereby selected subjective measures can be as informative as composite scores incorporating multiple measures. Even in this environment of omnipresence of smoking, household restrictions seem to offer protection against ETS exposure. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Preventive Medicine