A penguin and a polar bear are sitting on an iceberg. The penguin yells, "No Soap Radio!" They both jump in the water.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE: 'You don't have the right to make me breathe in your filth'

So that this doesn't get off on the wrong foot, I have to admit that for a long time I didn't really care about second hand smoke. The ranting of anti-smoking campaigns on the subject seemed exaggerated, as if someone lighting a cigarette within sight of you could cause spontaneous human combustion.

Commercials featuring waitresses and bartenders who caught lung cancer because of the secondhand smoke they breathed for years didn't make me feel passionate about the issue; it made me wonder why they worked in those places for so long. My only problem with smokers was that they stunk, and being around them for any extended period of time made me stink of smoke as well. The choice between smoking or non-smoking in a restaurant was based on the wait time, and I came home from the bar more worried about the next day's hangover than the noxious fumes I'd been inhaling all night. We all have our vices, after all.

Then this summer the Surgeon General released what was described as a definitive report on the effects of secondhand smoke - The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. It wasn't so much an actual report as it was a consolidation and summary of almost all research on the subject in the past few decades. Written by 22 national experts and peer reviewed by 70 of the government's top scientists, it goes without saying that this report got a little bit of press coverage.

The verdict: there is a clear and undeniable health risk posed by secondhand smoke. It harms people in a significant way. Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke, either at home or at work, experience a 25 to 30 percent jump in risk of heart disease, a 20 to 30 percent jump in risk of lung cancer. Children exposed to secondhand smoke show appreciably increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as well as a litany of respiratory diseases and slowed lung growth. The scariest part to me, over 60 percent of children ages three to 11 are exposed to secondhand smoke. These are just a few facts that stood out among the thousands.

Neither of my parents have ever smoked, but I do have asthma. I haven't suffered the symptoms of it since childhood, but when I did I sometimes had attacks so severe that they sent me into seizures. I know the clenching terror that comes with suddenly not being able to breathe for no reason other than catching a lungful of some aggravating substance that happened to be on a breeze that instant. This is another effect of secondhand smoke that I foolishly didn't consider. Breathing smoke into some people's face creates the same reaction as punching them in the chest, leaving them gasping for a breath when all they did was walk near you. Full column here

Sometimes I wish that the departments in UNCG communicated more. Imagine the power a phone call could have:

Housing employee - Hey there, this is [NAME] from Housing. How are you?
Other dept. employee - What?
Housing employee - I'm calling because we had a student go into an asthma attack from some smoke she inhaled outside the dorm, and we've decided to only allow smoking in certain zones.
Other dept. employee - Who is this?
Housing employee - We thought you guys might want to do the same thing too.
Other dept. employee - Who in the hell...
Housing employee - Since we only service 3,000 students and you have over 16,000 to deal with, it seems like you'd have more students to protect and would want to...
Other dept. employee - [voice in background] "Jim, who is that?" I don't know, someone is instigating change.
Housing employee - ...implement a similar program.
Other dept. employee - [voice in background] "HANG UP! HANG UP!" *CLICK*


Post a Comment

<< Home