Secondhand Smoke: Triumphs and Tragedies

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , /

AND HUMAN SERVICES>>This is about improving
and saving people’s lives.>>Unfortunately, because of
the secondhand smoke in the air, I had an asthma attack
within 10 minutes, so I was forced to leave.>>The cancer, how I got it, was
due to my exposure to secondhand smoke in all
those smoky clubs, for all those years.>>You’re asking the employee to
choose between their health and making a living. That’s just not fair.>>Everybody has a dream. They want to be able to support
their family. They want to be able to… to support themselves. They want to be responsible. But the reality is, if these
kinds of things are going to be in your workplace, how can you,
when you’re exposed this way?>>I’m grateful to be here
today, to be able to say unequivocally
that the debate is over. The science is clear. Secondhand smoke is not
a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that
causes premature death and disease in children
and non-smoking adults. In the course of the past 20
years, the scientific community has reached consensus
on this point.>>I’d been a waitress
for 40 years, to earn a decent living for
my daughter and myself. My doctor told me I had
a smoker’s tumor, and therefore, I’m dying. I never smoked a day in my life. I never smoked. The air was blue where I worked,
and I’m dying of lung cancer from secondhand smoke. For myself, I feel that I spent
40 years working in the industry,
and now I’m coming out to die. And so I want people to know
that, to me, that there was too much exposure
to the known health hazard in the workplace.>>Woman: Those kinds of
atmospheres — bars, restaurants, casinos — are
the last vestiges of smoking. I was a very successful,
award-winning stand-up comedian, who, in August 2001 had surgery for
a lung cancer that, uh, was due to my exposure
to secondhand smoke in all those smoky clubs for all
those 11 years.>>She’s decided that, you know,
she needs to tell other people what happened to her, and she
needs to use her story to motivate people to change.>>Yeah, so if you want to catch
up with Rene, she’s going to be at that meeting tonight.>>Rene: Yeah, and everybody
should come out.>>I don’t want smokers to
smoke, I don’t want you to die, but if you choose to do so,
I support your personal choice, but please support mine —
don’t take me with you. Don’t take me with you. Don’t take me with you. Don’t take me with you.>>An important new conclusion
of this report is that smoke-free environments are
the only approach — the only approach —
that protects non-smokers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.>>Man: The city of El Paso is
about the 21st largest city in the country. We are as far West Texas
as you can get. And we border with
Juarez, Mexico. Well, in the very beginning,
which was in November of 2000, I told a reporter that there was
no way that we were ever going to pass such a tough ordinance,
a smoking ordinance.>>My gut instinct was that it
would have negative impacts on businesses and that people had
the right to determine their own future. As I started really researching
and going out and starting asking questions,
my opinion started to gradually shift.>>I learned that there’s dozens
of cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke. I learned that no manufacturer
of filtration systems guaranteed the effectiveness of
their system. And I kept saying to all
the other elected officials, “How can you compromise
somebody’s life, somebody’s health?” Whether they’re in a bar,
whether they’re in a restaurant, whether they’re in a VFW hall. And the majority of the city
council agreed with me. And we passed that ordinance
by a 7-to-1 vote.>>I don’t think it’s had
a negative impact. We still see the people who used
to smoke in our restaurants, and the people who didn’t smoke seem
to come more often than they used to, so we’ve had really
robust sales in the past five years.>>We have more restaurants than
we had before, in spite of El Paso having the toughest
smoking ordinance — or non-smoking ordinance —
in the state, and one of the toughest in
the whole country, still. It’s been a tremendously
positive experience and impact on the city.>>Man: Lexington is a community
of 300,000 people nestled in central Kentucky. Lexington has always been
an agricultural center. The tobacco background is
central to our DNA. Smart business people like
Mike Scanlon know that we can be proud of our community’s past,
but we don’t want to live in it, and that’s the case with
the smoke-free initiative we’ve had in this town.>>Really, what I’m trying to do
is show everybody what the future looks like.>>Mike Scanlon waded in,
he said, “I’m one of the largest restaurant employers in
this community. I’m going to take this community
smoke-free, and I’m going to set an example.” And it was an example
that spoke loudly.>>As a businessman, I had been through many
communities in Phoenix going smoke-free, and I knew it didn’t
hurt business. I think part of it gets down to,
is the decision of how are we going to make our money? And how do we explain to
ourselves when we drive home with our profits that we’re
letting our employees get sick, and that we’re looking at
the employees and say, “Well, if you don’t want to work here,
don’t”? We came to the conclusion that
it would be advantageous for us to have that competitive
advantage, where we’re smoke-free where other
restaurants aren’t, knowing that that’s really
the way it’s going.>>The biggest single
beneficiary from our decision to go smoke-free as a company was
our employees. It was our belief that, if you
value your employees as much as we do, that you have to
take care of them.>>In the middle of the tobacco
bill, we had common sense enough to make smoke-free environments. I know there will be a lot more
healthy, happy families as a result of this. And I think, at the end of
the day, that’s what people sent me to office to do.>>Secondhand smoke exposure
causes heart disease and lung cancer in adults and sudden
infant death syndrome and respiratory problems
in children. There is no risk-free level of
secondhand smoke exposure, with even brief exposure
adversely affecting the cardiovascular and
respiratory systems. Only smoke-free environments
effectively protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke exposure
in indoor spaces.>>Children are most exposed
to secondhand smoke in their homes, and in their cars, and
what we’re asking parents to do is to just become aware
of the fact that the home is the area where there
is the greatest exposure, and it’s going to have to be
the place where a personal commitment is made.>>What impressed me about
this young man, because he was in fifth grade at the time, was
how knowledgeable he was. That really encouraged me.>>My parents were taking me
bowling. Unfortunately, because of
the secondhand smoke in the air, I had an asthma attack within
10 minutes, so I was forced to leave.>>We’re getting more and more
reports that indicate that children are just suffering
disproportionately, that asthmatic children are
being triggered by people smoking and their being
around smokers.>>I was really disappointed
by this. I came home and I was like,
“How am I ever going to have fun if my asthma is going to
inhibit me from participating in such activities?” So my parents, you know, they
suggested, “Why don’t you try and do something about it?”>>Amit was there because he
felt that children and families needed to have places that they
could go were smoke-free, and we wanted to be able to provide
places in the community where families could go and not have
to be affected by the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.>>Amit: I made a presentation
representing the children of Lubbock.>>We also need laws to make
our air safer to breathe.>>And we ended up winning
64% of the vote. Finally, we were going to get
a smoking ban in Lubbock.>>The 1986 Surgeon General’s
report concluded that simple separation of smokers and
non-smokers within the same air space may reduce, but not
eliminate, secondhand smoke exposure among non-smokers. The current report expands on
that finding by concluding that even sophisticated ventilation
approaches cannot completely remove secondhand smoke
from an indoor space. Because there is no risk-free
level of secondhand smoke exposure, anything less cannot
ensure that non-smokers are fully protected from the dangers
of exposure to secondhand smoke.>>If I can stop others
from having to go through and experience what I had to, they
may not have the skills to come through it with laughter. So if I can help do that,
then, yes, this is a happy ending to a sad story.>>It takes the business
community, it takes the medical community, and it takes
the elected official community to say, “Stand up,
that’s not fair.”>>And when you can stand up for
the good of society, you can die the next day and feel like you
have mattered on this earth.

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