Should Smokers be Allowed to Smoke in Public Places?
A smoker recently complained "I also find the argument that illnesses caused by smoking cost the government enormous sums of the tax payers (sic) money, faintly absurd. Just as many people, if not more, cost the tax payer through drunken driving and, just as likely, through the increasing problem of obesity!" She added "Has the Goverment (sic) considered banning drinking in a public place because of the cost to the tax payer?"
Finally, she stated triumphantly "Be honest, who would you rather sit next to on (sic) an aeroplane - a person who was smoking before they got on the plane or someone who had (sic) had several too many drinks?!"
Er, I'll take the alcoholic, please. I'm deathly allergic to cigarette smoke, even if it's only clinging to the smoker's clothes and hair. And, truthfully, vomit smells better.
This type of argument is a very poor one indeed, because smoking is in a league of its own. If I am sitting in a restaurant, and an alcoholic in the next booth is slamming her 6th vodka and tonic, I am not going to become drunk or even tipsy as a result of HER choices. Now, I'll grant you that she shouldn't be driving, but even then she can make the correct choice to call a cab without impacting any one of us.
However, if the woman in the next booth is smoking, I am smoking with her. If you want to kill yourself, that's fine with me. Just don't take me with you.
According to the American Lung Association, "Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals known to be toxic or cancer causing, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide."
The dangers of secondhand smoke abound. Again, according to the American Lung Association:
"Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths each year from lung cancer in non-smokers.
Secondhand smoke causes irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
Secondhand smoke can also irritate the lungs, leading to coughing, excessive phlegm and chest discomfort.
Secondhand smoke has been estimated to cause 22,700-69,600 deaths per year from heart disease in adult nonsmokers.
Secondhand Smoke Especially Hurts Children!
Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis, and other lung diseases.
Children who breathe secondhand smoke have more ear infections.
Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to develop asthma.
Children who have asthma and who breathe secondhand smoke have more asthma attacks.
There are an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 cases every year of infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants and children under 18 months of age who breathe secondhand smoke. These result in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations!"
My mother and her two brothers have never smoked a day in their life, because their parents DID. My uncle once told me of a particularly horrible memory that he had when they were small children, driving in the car with my grandparents, as my grandparents smoked. The windows were open but it didn't help much. In fact, it may have increased the smoke that was flowing in the back seat, and the children felt smothered. It was a terrible, suffocating feeling that made an indelible impression on my uncle, who swore he would never touch a cigarette.
Of course, American politicians are cozy with the tobacco industry, which contributes greatly to their war chests. This means that any affront to smokers is met with a vast arsenal of weapons. But Americans are still fighting back.
In California they recently passed a law that makes it child abuse if an adult is smoking in a car with a child present. I applaud the Californians for recognizing this, and I hope that the rest of America follows suit.
The Californians are speaking for the children, who cannot.
The truth is, that even though they're stinky, smelly, nasty, and expensive, cigarettes live on in the youth of America. You can't walk down a popular sidewalk without holding your breath as you go by some teen who's blowing smoke in your direction. It's so natural to me that I almost forget I'm doing it. And these kids get their habits from watching their parents and their peers. If children are increasingly shielded from their parents' poor judgement in this matter, maybe they'll have a better chance at good health and good choices.
Society needs to protect those of us that are allergic and asthmatic. We are the ones that can be hospitalized due to someone else's fault, even if we practice a healthy lifestyle. And society needs to protect the children if their parents don't care enough to do it.