Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

It's True: Tobacco Smokes You

Last night, as I was leaving Drinking Liberally, I was reminded of the Washington State Department of Health's slogan, Tobacco Smokes You.

I had been aware before I came to Drinking Liberally that it was supposed to be "Smoke 'em if you got 'em night" (after the first hour) but I didn't imagine that so many people at Drinking Liberally were actually going to light up.

There were at least half a dozen people (probably more) smoking cigarettes or cigars. Within seconds after the first person had started, the entire atmosphere inside the Montlake Ale House was polluted.

Not too many people know this about me, but I simply can't stand cigarette smoke. It makes me sick. Really sick. And within a few minutes after people started lighting up last night, I was fairly nauseated. I had no interest in wanting to throw up, so I quickly left, earlier than I thought I would.

I'm not entirely sure how much secondhand smoke I inhaled before I left, but it sure felt like a lot. As it turns out, I probably should have left more quickly:
As little as 30 minutes of secondhand smoke can lead to hardening of the arteries in nonsmokers, Japanese researchers reported at the American Heart Association (AHA) meeting.

While most people know that secondhand smoke can affect those living or working around the smoker, most say that damage only occurs with long-term exposure.

However, Japanese researchers report changes that can lead to heart disease occur in as little as 30 minutes. "Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke can result in reduced blood flow and an increase in a marker for oxidative stress equivalent to what occurs in smokers," says Toru Kato, MD, of the faculty of medicine at Saga University in Saga, Japan.
Normally, I try to stay as far away from smokers as I can. I have never tried any kind of tobacco, and I never intend to - ever. As I see it, it's essentially just like drinking a solution of toxic chemicals.

(By the way, there are more than 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke - 50 of which are known to cause cancer in humans).

I cannot understand why anyone would ever want to do that to themselves. It's asking for cancer to hit you in a few decades. It's destroying your body. It drives up your healthcare costs. It's disgusting.

Even after leaving the Montlake Ale House and coming home, I could still smell smoke, and I was puzzled as to why. Then I realized that my clothes had absorbed some of the smoke (and the smell). I immediately changed into a new outfit and started laundering all of the smoky clothes. I still wasn't satisfied, though, and took a shower to cleanse my body as well.

I also had to wipe down my laptop with a damp rag, because I could detect that awful smell coming from it, too.

All in all, it took me quite a bit of time and effort just to clean myself and my belongings up from fifteen minutes of exposure to smoke - and I wasn't even smoking. I can hardly imagine what bartenders and other employees who are exposed to this crap all day long have to go through.

It's why I am extremely happy that Initiative 901 passed with such overwhelming force here in Washington State. NPI strongly supported Initiative 901, and for good reason. People like myself who don't want to be exposed to this garbage shouldn't have to suffer by accommodating smokers.

John L. Kirkwood, President and CEO of the American Lung Association, joins me in congratulating our state's voters for making a healthy choice:
"Washington State voters are to be applauded for making the right public health choice and protecting workers and patrons from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. This ballot box victory represents a major step forward in the fight against the nation's continuing tobacco epidemic."

Washington State now becomes the ninth smokefree state, joining the ranks of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Smokefree states prohibit smoking in most workplaces, including all restaurants and bars.

Workers in restaurants and bars will especially benefit from the decision of Washington State voters. Levels of secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars are approximately 1.6 times greater and 7.6 times greater, respectively, than in office workplaces, and food service workers have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from lung cancer than the general population
If every person lived inside their own little sealed bubble, then I wouldn't have a problem with adults who were making a conscious decision to deliberately poision themselves.

But that's not the case. We all share the same air. And those of us who don't want to breathe in secondhand smoke shouldn't have to. It is the smokers who need to accommodate the nonsmokers - not the other way around!

And a huge majority of voters agree. Initiative 901 passed in every single county in the State of Washington. Every single county.

A few weeks ago, on Election Night, (around midnight or so) after it became known that Initiative 912 was defeated, I was watching a number of different Democrats that I knew light up cigarettes at the Westin's bar, inside the grand lobby. I of course left the Westin shortly thereafter, although I had been planning to leave anyway because it was getting late.

What was really ironic, though, was that Nick Federici, who worked for the Initiative 901 campaign, had come over to the Westin, where people were congegrating as the seperate parties ended.

So while I was congratulating him on the great victory, other Democrats were lighting up cigarettes behind me. I felt bad, and I'm sure Nick did as well.

And it's my understanding that Drinking Liberally was open to smoking last night in honor of Initiative 901, which goes into effect on Thursday. My reaction: What?

The proper way to honor Initiative 901 would be to QUIT SMOKING! That's right: quit smoking altogether, and never light up another cigarette.

If you're a smoker, you owe it to your lungs (and your neighbors) to kick the nasty habit and never start again. The annual economic toll of tobacco use is $50 billion in health care costs and another $50 billion in indirect costs to society.

The Washington State Department of Health is absolutely right. Tobacco smokes you. And those around you. And it definitely contaminates your clothes and other possessions. If you're a smoker and you're reading this, I urge you to quit as soon as you can.

And don't forget - Initiative 901 goes into effect at 12:01 AM tomorrow morning.

For more information:

<< Home