ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Smoking was a hot topic at this year’s ASHRAE winter meeting.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Smoking was a hot topic at this year’s winter meeting of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

A seminar and forum were held Jan. 13 on whether ASHRAE needs to establish a separate indoor air quality (IAQ) standard for the hospitality industry. Some have criticized ASHRAE Standard 62-1999, “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality,” saying it does not adequately address the needs of those who own businesses where smoking is still commonplace, such as bars, restaurants and casinos.

Therefore, ASHRAE has proposed Addendum 62g, which would establish ventilation guidelines for separating smokers from nonsmokers. The addendum exempts high-rise dwellings. Antismoking activists oppose the addendum, saying it attempts to determine a “safe” level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Dozens of bar owners and representatives from casinos, restaurant industry trade groups and tobacco companies spoke during the two-hour open forum. Many of the speakers came to the forum from Canada, where several cities have passed or are considering totally banning smoking in restaurants, bars and bingo parlors. Most of the restaurant owners said they have lost or will lose up to 25% of their business if a smoking ban in enacted in their communities.

“Our survival depends on our ability to accommodate all patrons,” said one bar owner from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Vancouver was one of the first cities in Canada to attempt a total smoking ban in bars and restaurants, but the British Columbia Supreme Court struck down the ban in 2000, declaring the legislation to be too broad.

Just fix it

“A lot of our customers smoke, and if they can’t smoke, they won’t come,” he added. “It’s important ASHRAE get off the fence. If we can send someone to the moon, surely we can figure out how to get smoke out of a bar.”

The bar owner said much of the antismoking legislation was based on the myth that “one molecule of smoke will knock you dead.”

Antismoking activists were very vocal during the forum. One activist from Pennsylvania asked what the “hospitality” industry really was. “Our concern is that if this rule passes, anyone who wants to allow smoking can call themselves a ‘hospitality industry,’” the activist said.

Some ASHRAE members said the society could not create a smoking-related standard until the federal government announces what is the “safe” level of exposure to tobaco smoke, which led one person to ask if ASHRAE would feel comfortable determining a “safe” number of tobacco-related deaths due to secondhand smoke.

Several ASHRAE members in the audience complained that the discussion denigrated into a debate on smoking and not a talk about the merits of the addendum.

ASHRAE also held an open session on the 34 new addenda planned for Standard 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. Standard 90.1 provides the minimum requirements for the design of energy efficient buildings. The addenda cover topics such as building envelope, hvac, lighting and the energy cost budgeting method.