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UNR Study Seeks Link Between Vitamins and Secondhand Smoke Resistance

By: by Vicky Nguyen, vicky.nguyen@kolotv.com
By: by Vicky Nguyen, vicky.nguyen@kolotv.com

RENO -- A University of Nevada, Reno biochemist is looking at whether vitamins help counteract the negative effects of secondhand smoke.

It is the first study of its kind, and researchers are recruiting volunteers in the Reno / Sparks area.

This study looks specifically at secondhand smoke in the workplace. That's a big concern in the Silver State, where 27 percent of all adults say they have a smoking habit. Nevada has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation, and it's a growing concern for workers who spend hours every day exposed to the smoke.

Researchers hope they have a solution.

Dr. Chris Pritsos shows off the orange pills that hold the key to a four-year, $2.3 million study funded by the National Insitutes of Health. He wants to see if antioxidant-packed vitamins will help protect people from DNA damage caused by secondhand smoke.

"There are 4,000 toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke," Pritsos says. "Things like cyanide, benzene, and toluene."

Pritsos is looking for casino workers, cocktail waitresses and bartenders who are willing to take a two pills a day, keep records and talk with researchers periodically over a two-year period.

"We're looking for non-smokers who live with someone who doesn't smoke and works 20 hours a week," he says.

Megan Holland fits the bill. She says she stays away from cigarettes because her grandmother died of lung cancer.

"Just watching it, you don't want to go through that pain," Holland says.

Holland thinks the study could help local workers protect themselves.

"I think it will be a very good study," she says. "This city has a lot of casino and bar employees who don't smoke that this might be good for."

"It's tough," says Flowing Tide bar general manager Jason Tolotti. "People like to drink, smoke, gamble, smoke... a lot of it goes hand-in-hand."

Managers at the Flowing Tide say they can't go smoke-free, but they're trying to find a happy medium for their customers and workers. In a few months, they'll put in an air purifier.

In the meantime, researcher Pritsos will try to help workers from the inside, hoping his study will find the magic bullet against cancers and other diseases that could be caused by secondhand smoke.

If you'd like to participate in the study, call 327-1138 for information. Volunteers will get a small stipend for their time, and 200 volunteers are still needed.

Brent -- researchers say it's been very tough to recruit volunteers from the gaming industry. Pritsos says many casinos are worried about lawsuits and workers worry about their job security. All volunteers' personal information is kept private.

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