SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Second Hand Smoke
By Charlotte Glover


July 14, 2007

Dear Sitnews,

It always amazes me the lengths to which smokers will go to defend their habit. Our recent contributors must be among the lucky few who do not have lung ailments, emphysema, coronary heart disease, peptic ulcers, infertility and babies with low birth weight, not to mention that oh so attractive hacking cough and endless spitting. I am sure their doctor applauds their cavalier attitude toward their health, but when it comes to my health, I am not so appreciative of their habit.

The smoking issue would be non-existant if a little lingering smoke were the only ill effect. Unfortunately, that is not true at all for the millions of us who can get ill after exposure to smoke. I am an non-smoker who has had allergies since childhood that have development into mild asthma as an adult. Exposure to smoke can cause me to start coughing, trigger an asthma attack, inflame my allergies or send me to the hospital depending upon the situation. I will add that I generally am in robust health, exercise daily and miss about one day of work a year due to illness. I am not chronically ill.....except when exposed to smoke.

I am unable, for instance, to attend the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce meetings (which are non-smoking) at the VFW because the lingering smoke in that room has twice sent me to the hospital when my airways and esophagus swelled. I am still paying off the $2000 in medical costs my insurance didn't cover from my last incident. Thanks smokers!

There is no way to avoid second hand smoke in Ketchikan. I encounter it everyday when taking my walk, treating my six year old son to a trip to the mall, entering Wal-Mart or running errands downtown for my job. I frequently have to pass people smoking. My son constantly asks me why people smoke so much in Ketchikan. He has already noticed from our travels that smoking is not so prevalent in other communities. What would your answer be?

Fifteen years ago my husband and I traveled to Europe where I struggled to breath in cities where smoking is encouraged. I eventually ended up in a Paris hospital with bronchitus and missed several days of our vacation. Lisbon wasn't any better for my lungs. Having also been to Ireland, I applaud their recent decision to ban smoking in pubs which are often the only local eateries for familes. There is no excuse for exposing employees, families and children to secondhand smoke.

No one in my family smokes and yet I am constantly picking up cigarette butts in front of my workplace, in my driveway and at the beach so it is clean for my six year old son and his friends. When he was tiny and likely to put things in his mouth we collected pounds of smoking debris from the beaches. How can you defend the amount of litter smokers leave around? Why is that part of the culture of smoking?

Secondhand smoke is a known cause of cancer in humans. It causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke, including 3,400 lung cancer deaths each year and 46,000 heart disease deaths.

Secondhand smoke is especially harmful to young children. It is responsible for hundreds of thousands of lower respiratory tract ailements each year and 430 sudden death syndrome deaths. Secondhand smoke aslo can cause a buildup of fluid in the middle ear, resulting in more trips to the doctor, more antibiotics and more ear tubes. That same smoke aggravates symptoms in hundreds of thousands of children with asthma each year.

I imagine most of us non-smokers would be more compassionate if we saw more courtesy from smokers. How about less rubish, less walking down the street with burning cigarettes that are not even being smoked, and less smoking in places people eat, especially children. That adult next to you may have made a "choice" to smoke, but I guarantee that child did not. Anyone who smokes near a child with developing lungs for any reason, in any place, should be deeply ashamed.


Charlotte Glover
Ketchikan, AK

Received July 14, 2007 - Published July 14, 2007


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