Alabama citizens’ health takes back seat to smoking

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2008

By TAYLOR CAIN / Guest Columnist

My hope for a smoke-free Alabama died May 19 just days away from World No Tobacco Day on May 31 — a yearly global event focusing on tobacco use.

When I heard the bill for Alabama to become smoke-free did not pass, I was very disappointed. I really wanted Alabama to join the other states that are now smoke-free.

Because the bill was not passed, non-smokers like myself will have to continue to suffer from the effects of smokers at places such as parks, recreational centers and restaurants.

I sadly wonder if officials thought much about the effects of secondhand smoke on the health of non-smokers — especially on children.

Many children enjoy playing at parks with their friends and families. When smokers light up, they are putting children and others at risk.

Inhaling secondhand smoke, or environmental smoke, is just as dangerous as putting a cigarette to one’s mouth and smoking it. In Alabama, the alarming projected number of youth that will die from tobacco use or secondhand smoke is more than 174,000 per year.

Not only are smokers polluting the environment in parks and recreational centers but thousands of citizens who love to dine out with family and friends are being affected by secondhand smoke in restaurants that allow smoking.

Restaurant owners argue that their restaurants have smoking vents and certain sections set aside for smokers. In 2006, the report from the surgeon general confirmed that separating smokers from nonsmokers by ventilation systems in buildings could not eliminate the exposures of secondhand smoke to nonsmokers. The report also said that conventional air cleaning systems could remove large particles but not smaller particles or the gases found in secondhand smoke.

However, routine operation of a heating, ventilating and air conditioning system can actually distribute secondhand smoke throughout a building. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has concluded that ventilation technology cannot be relied on to control health risks from secondhand smoke.

Smokers indicate nonsmokers are infringing on their rights as to where they can smoke.

I am a nonsmoker, and I do not want to infringe on anyone’s rights, but I have rights as well, and I do not want to inhale deadly chemicals that will eventually harm me and shorten my life.

Taylor Cain is a student at Thompson High School.