Background: Several countries are discussing new legislation regarding the ban on smoking in public places, based on the growing evidence of the hazards of secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure. The objective of the present study is to quantitatively assess the relationship between smoking, SHS, and serum cotinine levels in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Methods: From a study on lung cancer in the EPIC cohort, questionnaire information on smoking was collected at enrolment, and cotinine was measured in serum. Three statistical models were applied by using samples available in a cross-section design: (i) cotinine levels by categories combining smoking and SHS (n = 859); (ii) the effect of hours of passive smoking exposure in nonsmokers only (n = 107); (iii) the effect of the number of cigarettes consumed per day in current smokers only (n = 832). All models were adjusted for country, sex, age, and body mass index. Results: Among nonsmokers, passive smokers presented significant differences in cotinine compared with nonexposed, with a marked (but not significant) difference among former-smokers. A one hour per day increment of SHS gave rise to a significant 2.58 nmol/L (0.45 ng/mL) increase in mean serum cotinine (P <0.001). In current smokers, a one cigarette per day increment gave rise to a significant 22.44 nmol/L (3.95 ng/ mL) increase in cotinine mean (P <0.001). Conclusions: There is clear evidence that not only tobacco smoking but also involuntary exposure increases cotinine levels. Impact: This study strengthens the evidence for the benefits of a smoking ban in public places.
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