Tuesday, May 31, 2011

World No Tobacco Day - May 31, 2011

The original title for this post was "Your Right to Smoke Ends at My Lungs". I took inspiration from my high school law teacher whose favourite refrain was "Your right to swing a golf club ends at my nose". It's a simple statement which applies to so many things in life. At its heart, it's a statement about being considerate of those around you.

I'm generally not a preachy sort of person and I definitely don't feel comfortable telling people what they can or cannot do. However, when it comes to my health and safety or that of people who cannot defend themselves, it's really difficult for me to keep quiet. 

So, I'll make this simple and try to lay out why I think smoking should be completely banned. I came to this decision after years of considering the matter and I didn't always feel this way. But, here it is:

1. No level of cigarette/cigar/pipe/hookah smoke is safe (World Health Organization, WHO).

2. Tobacco smoke and all of its inherent chemicals can remain on fabrics and in homes for seven days (Canadian Lung Association). This is referred to as third-hand smoke.

3. I can have (and have had) asthma attacks from sitting beside people who have recently smoked - third-hand smoke - or from walking by a smoker on the sidewalk - second-hand smoke.

4. Of all the things we need to do with the limited arable land in the world, why on earth are we wasting it on a product that can only cause harm and even kill?

5. Smoking can lead to cancer, heart and lung disease and a host of other health problems.

6. The economic costs of smoking (health-related and lost productivity) were over $11 billion in 1993. Even if that has decreased, it's a ridiculous waste of money.1

7. Approximately half of children are exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis. In children it can cause respiratory diseases and in young infants, death. "In 2004, children accounted for 28% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke." 2

8. "Tobacco caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century. If current trends continue, it will cause up to one billion deaths in the 21st century." 3

9. "Second-hand smoke has over 4,000 chemicals; many of them cause cancer. Two thirds of the smoke from a cigarette is not inhaled by the smoker, but enters the air around the smoker." 4 

10. My final argument is once again from the WHO:

"The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

So, all of that being true, I cannot fathom why smoking of all kinds - cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs - is not banned. Since it's not likely to happen in my lifetime, I'd settle for a comprehensive smoking ban in any public area or private environment where children under 18 are present at any given time. Children don't choose to become asthmatics and they shouldn't be forced into it.

I think it's pretty clear that I could come up with more reasons, but I'll leave it at that. For more information, I've included the references below and more links about tobacco and smoking.

1 http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/smoking/cost.html
2 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/index.html
3 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/index.html
4 http://www.lung.ca/protect-protegez/tobacco-tabagisme/second-secondaire/index_e.php

Canadian Lung Association: Smoking & Tobacco
Canadian Lung Association: Second-hand smoke
World Health Organization: Tobacco Fact Sheet
World Health Organization: No Tobacco Day
Hookah smoking lounges face curbs

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