Speaking out against smoking

As a part of World No Tobacco Day, students from elementary to high school gathered in the Park Blocks outside Portland State to protest tobacco use and lenient tobacco laws in Oregon.

The students gathered with help from the Native American Rehabilitation Association and the Asian and Pacific Islander Health Network. The assemblage of students and group members marched down the Park Blocks to Pioneer Square beating drums, chanting and holding protest signs reading “Make Oregon smoke-free” and “Everyone has the right to breathe clean air.”

Solomon Trimble of NARA said his group is protesting because of the way cigarette companies process their tobacco products. He said the companies add “poisons” to tobacco and that Native Americans used tobacco only for ritualistic purposes rather than for daily use like many U.S. citizens do.

“It’s an attack on Native American culture,” he said. “Big tobacco is making people sick.”

Trimble said that at PSU, where the march started, many smokers do not adhere to the “No Smoking” signs posted around campus, and smoke in the designated non-smoking areas. He said part of the protest is raising awareness about tobacco and driving home the point that non-smokers have a right to clean air.

Some students who smoke at Portland State said it is difficult to find a covered area to smoke in. Liberal studies student Alicia said that even though she would be happy if there were less second-hand smoke, the only covered areas on both the PSU and PCC campus are in doorways, making it difficult for smokers to stay dry while taking a cigarette break.

PSU student Jerrod Thomas said he thinks owners of bars and restaurants should be allowed to decide whether they want to make their establishment smoke-free. “The government shouldn’t be telling them how to run their businesses,” he said.

Stacy Mingo, an employee of the Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Sciences University and a Portland State graduate, helped lead the Asian and Pacific Islander Health Network group through the Park Blocks. Mingo said that working in the Cancer Institute has opened her eyes “about what second-hand smoke can do.”

The Coalition for World No Tobacco Day is headed by a board of 11 directors and aims to call attention to the possible effects of tobacco use, to prevent people from developing a smoking habit and to encourage smokers to quit.