Association between respiratory tract diseases and secondhand smoke exposure among never smoking flight attendants: A cross-sectional survey

Jon O. Ebbert, Ivana T. Croghan, Darrell R. Schroeder, Judith Murawski, Richard D. Hurt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background. Little is known about long-term adverse health consequences experienced by flight attendants exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS) during the time smoking was allowed on airplanes. We undertook this study to evaluate the association between accumulated flight time in smoky airplane cabins and respiratory tract diseases in a cohort of never smoking flight attendants. Methods. We conducted a mailed survey in a cohort of flight attendants. Of 15,000 mailed questionnaires, 2053 (14%) were completed and returned. We excluded respondents with a personal history of smoking (n = 748) and non smokers with a history of respiratory tract diseases before the age of 18 years (n = 298). The remaining 1007 respondents form the study sample. Results. The overall study sample was predominantly white (86%) and female (89%), with a mean age of 54 years. Overall, 69.7% of the respondents were diagnosed with at least one respiratory tract disease. Among these respondents, 43.4% reported a diagnosis of sinusitis, 40.3% allergies, 30.8% bronchitis, 23.2% middle ear infections, 13.6% asthma, 13.4% hay fever, 12.5% pneumonia, and 2.0% chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. More hours in a smoky cabin were observed to be significantly associated with sinusitis (OR = 1.21; p = 0.024), middle ear infections (OR = 1.30; p = 0.006), and asthma (OR = 1.26; p = 0.042). Conclusion. We observed a significant association between hours of smoky cabin exposure and self-reported reported sinusitis, middle ear infections, and asthma. Our findings suggest a dose-response between duration of SHS exposure and diseases of the respiratory tract. Our findings add additional evidence to the growing body of knowledge supporting the need for widespread implementation of clean indoor air policies to decrease the risk of adverse health consequences experienced by never smokers exposed to SHS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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