Ban second hand smoke

Walking to class is becoming a life-or-death adventure as the dangers of secondhand smoke are becoming more of a priority to Oregonians, with college campuses and parks going smoke-free.

Walking to class is becoming a life-or-death adventure as the dangers of secondhand smoke are becoming more of a priority to Oregonians, with college campuses and parks going smoke-free.

Portland is working on becoming more of a smoke-free city. According to the American Lung Association in 2007, Portland updated an existing tobacco policy. The policy prevents smokers from smoking within 25 feet of any playground or picnic table. It also made all of Pioneer Courthouse Square, and now Director Park, smoke-free. Ideas such as more smoking restrictions in city parks are still being discussed.

The Multnomah County Health Department Tobacco Prevention Program states that 86 percent of Oregonians believe that people need to be protected from secondhand smoke, while 89 percent of Oregonians believe that secondhand smoke is harmful. Secondhand smoke kills approximately 800 Oregonians each year.

With over 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke and over 50 causes of cancer, it is no wonder that secondhand smoke can lead to heart disease, lung cancer, breast cancer, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma and other problems.

The American Lung Association states that even 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can impair coronary circulation—and that is in someone who does not smoke. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke are 20¬ to 30 percent more likely to get lung cancer, and secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by as much as 60 percent in nonsmokers.

Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for children. The American Lung Association reports that, across the nation, children exposed to secondhand smoke miss seven million more days of school each year. In Oregon, SIDS is the second leading cause of infant deaths, and exposure to secondhand smoke increases that risk.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at a higher risk for asthma, respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, colds, and lower respiratory tract infections. Approximately 7,500 infants and 15,000 children in the United States are hospitalized annually because of lower respiratory tract infections that are due to secondhand smoke exposure.

The City of Troutdale is working on preliminary plans to make their parks smoke-free, according to the office of the Community Health Educator at the Multnomah County Health Department, which completely supports eliminating secondhand smoke exposure in parks.

Across the state, more and more college campuses are becoming smoke-free. Most recently added to the list is Portland Community College, as of Sept. 9, 2009. Oregon Coast Community College became smoke-free in the 2009 fall term. Mount Hood Community College will soon join this list and become a non-smoking campus in January 2010.

The Oregon Tobacco-Free College Initiative and Portland State University have discussed the possibility that Portland State could become a smoke-free campus. One problem stands in the way, however, and that problem happens to run directly through campus—the Park blocks.

The Park blocks are publicly owned, so Portland State cannot make the campus smoke-free as long as smoking in parks is still legal. But with citizens pushing for smoke-free parks, hopefully Portland State will be able to protect their students, faculty and staff soon. Making the Park blocks smoke-free would not only protect those who attend school or work at Portland State, it would also protect more Portland citizens from contracting various diseases caused by secondhand smoke.

The National Cancer Institute has a list of the chemicals that are found in secondhand smoke. Some of these chemicals are arsenic, benzene (found in gasoline), cadmium (the metal used in batteries), ethylene oxide (a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment) and polonium-210  (a chemical that gives off radiation) and vinyl chloride (a toxic substance used when manufacturing plastics). Who wants any of those things in their body, let alone their lungs?

While it’s a person’s right to choose to smoke, it is also a person’s right to choose not to smoke. It is unfair to for a person to inhale secondhand smoke when they have chosen not to do it firsthand. Some people suffer from severe asthma or respiratory problems, so while inhaling secondhand smoke has been proven to be dangerous in a healthy non-smoker, it is especially risky for those with serious health problems.

So how do we solve this problem? Should we support one person’s freedom while ignoring another’s? No. What it comes down to is health. The concerns and major health issues linked to secondhand smoking are prominent issues, and the health of the citizens should be the city’s main concern. Thus, the best solution is to designate certain areas for smoking that are well-ventilated so as not to affect the health of those who choose not to smoke.

So, while you may still be able to smoke in Portland public parks, stay away from playgrounds. The next time you reach into your pocket to light up a cigarette, think first. Think about what you are doing to the environment, other people, children and animals. Think about what you are doing to yourself the next time you reach for that cigarette. Is it worth it? You decide.