In my job, I interview all types of people, from an average, small-town resident to the Governor. I typically don’t think much of it, but this week, the two people I interviewed made me a bit angry. Of course, as an unbiased reporter, I listen and make no judgments either way. They were smokers and had been for years. My mother is a chain smoker, so I don’t have anything against smokers, personally. And while I wish my mother would quit, I realize if people want to risk their lives, then that’s their business. But when their habit risks my life, that’s what makes me angry.
The two women I interviewed didn’t risk my life, but they admitted they did risk the lives of their children. I was in the smoking section of one of our local hospitals when I interviewed the two smokers. Both were patients. One just had a baby; the other was pregnant with her fourth child. The first one said she smoked at home and around her children. The other said she didn’t smoke around her children, yet she smoked while she was pregnant. I was stunned, but not entirely surprised. Because of my mother, I know how addictive smoking is. I felt bad for them, because during the course of the interview, one knew it was bad, but loved it. The other said she tried to quit before, but failed.
My story was about three hospitals here that plan to ban the use of all tobacco products anywhere on their hospital grounds. It was part of the Great American Smokeout this week. It’s when smokers across the nation smoke less or quit for the day. The smokeout is held every year on the third Thursday of November and sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The ban at my local hospital will affect patients, visitors and employees. The reason is mainly because of the dangers of secondhand smoke. The hospital administrators also hope it will prompt people to quit.
U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona issued a report this year that concludes there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. In fact, nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. These are significant findings considering nearly half of all nonsmoking Americans are still regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
Studies show that cigarette smoking is an important risk factor for stroke. Inhaling cigarette smoke produces several effects that damage the cerebrovascular system. Women who take oral contraceptives and smoke increase their risk of stroke many times.
Cigarette and tobacco smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes are the six major independent risk factors for coronary heart disease that you can modify or control. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases the risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.
I think banning smoking in our local hospitals is a bold move. After my interviews with smokers, I believe there will be a lot of unhappy people out there. But for many people who don’t smoke, like me, the air will be cleaner and safer for us all. The county where I live went smoke-free several years ago inside all public places, including restaurants. I recently went to a restaurant out of town, where smoking was still allowed in the so-called “smoking area.” As soon as I walked through the door, the smell was horrible. For years, we all became so accustomed to it. Now that I’m used to the cleaner air, the difference is so obvious. By the way, I didn’t stay and eat at that restaurant. Even sitting in the no-smoking area, the smell was too overwhelming and my eyes even started to water. So, while I believe smokers have their right to risk their lives, I’m so happy government officials are making sure smokers don’t risk mine. Now, if I could just get my mom to quit.