Say yes to a healthy change

My friend (we shall call her Nikki) pays her tuition by entertaining in various bars because the job is decent and the pay is exceptional.

My friend (we shall call her Nikki) pays her tuition by entertaining in various bars because the job is decent and the pay is exceptional. Yet when Nikki comes home from work instead of studying or getting her nightly recommended sleep, she is scrubbing her skin raw, popping vitamin mineral supplements and guzzling detoxifying teas in a vain attempt to rid her body of the pollutants caused by the patrons’ second hand smoke.

Millions of dollars have been spent in legal battles with cigarette companies for warning labels, advertisement discretion and smoking-related health injuries. “Truth” advertisements beg smokers to just say no. Too many smokers were falling asleep with lit cigarettes, so the government has passed laws mandating that mattresses be sprayed with flame retardant chemicals, although the chemicals leave a negative health impact on everyone, smoker or otherwise. After all these attempts to save smokers from themselves, Oregon has stepped in to protect non-smokers from them.

On June 15, Oregon’s House of Representatives passed the Senate Bill 571 to expand the 2001 indoor smoking ban to prohibit smoking inside bars, bowling alleys, bingo halls and non-tribal casinos. That bill leaves only cigar bars, tobacco shops and the Portland Meadows venue exempt.

“The right to a healthy life is endangered by the presence of secondhand smoke in many indoor places,” said Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland and a sponsor of the bill, to the Associated Press. “Bar and restaurant workers are 50 percent more likely to get lung cancer than those who work in non-smoking areas.” This bill will help protect the health of non-smoking bartenders, musicians, entertainers and other employees beginning January 2009.

About 20 states behind, including conservative Colorado that took merely months to enforce a similar smoking ban, one question abounds: why will it take a year and a half for Oregon to implement this ban? Although many Oregonians think that it may be a cushion to allow for bars to adjust for expected revenues, the delay is actually due to state revenue. With neighbors California and Washington already having their smoking bans imposed, those determined to smoke in a bar would have to drive to Idaho or further, which inhibits competition from smoking bars. Also, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, gross income for Washington taverns and bars continue to grow even since their smoking ban took effect in December 2005. Once the Oregon smoking ban is implemented, Portland bars’ revenues should increase due to people from Washington who want to escape sales tax but aren’t willing to part with their health instead.

Oregon Republicans are concerned that the expanded smoking ban will negatively affect the state’s economy, deterring millions of dollars that would have been earned through a cigarette tax and lost revenues from gamblers that smoke. Despite these losses, there is no price that can replace health. It is a precious commodity that the government should assist in protecting at any cost.

Not only are individuals at these smoke-infested dives at risk for various cancers, but the tenants housed above such establishments are as well, including non-smokers, pregnant women and children. Secondhand smoke is as deadly as smoking–and sometimes worse–because nonsmokers have not built a tolerance to smoke, as have smokers from their lifetimes of inhaling toxins.

According to The American Cancer Society (ACS), “Secondhand smoke is a classified human carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent, by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds. More than 60 of these are known or suspected to cause cancer.”

The ACS estimates the following deaths are caused annually in the United States by secondhand smoke: 35,000 deaths from heart disease and 3,400 deaths from lung cancer and respiratory problems.

“The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” according to the ACS. “Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of non-smokers to secondhand smoke.”

Japanese hybrids and German smart cars have begun to replace petroleum-fueled vehicles that pollute the air. Non-smoking has replaced smoking. Hopefully this will allow us to enjoy greener surroundings, breathe fresh air and take another step toward preventing cancer. Japan has begun to experiment with outdoor smoking bans, specifically in publicly- or government-owned spaces frequented by children, and California has followed suit. Will Oregon take this next step in becoming an environmentally and health-conscious world leader? Or must we continue to force toxins on undeserving people until almost half the nation follows California’s lead?