Our society is so fortunate to have science and experience to help us pave the way for the future. Over the years we have learned more about public health risks and as a result policy has changed to make this a healthier and safer world for children, adults, the elderly, pets, and the environment. We now have seat belts, bike and ski helmets, mouth guards, and, yes, smoke free zones. According to the US Surgeon General, no amount of second hand smoke exposure is safe (even outdoors.) Second hand tobacco smoke can cause strokes and increase the risk of lung cancer, respiratory diseases and heart attacks. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at a higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, asthma, ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and other medical problems.
In response to the Max’s View column which appeared in the World on October 4, first I want to say Congratulations for quitting smoking. Tobacco use is a very tough habit to kick. (The tobacco industry knows this and has increased addictive nicotine levels and added chemicals and sugars to lure and keep customers.)
Vermont is working hard in several ways: 802QUITS cessation programs help smokers decrease tobacco use; community coalitions work with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Education to prevent youth and young adults from starting to use tobacco; youth at area high school OVX groups (Our Voices Xposed) are educating peers about the dangers of toxic flavored tobacco and tobacco products and the tactics of Big Tobacco targeting youth and at-risk populations such as low income and LGBTQ communities. Policies are in place to reduce exposure to second hand smoke from multi-unit housing, schools, parks and playgrounds, cars with children present, hospital grounds, college and university campuses, and community events.
Secondhand smoke policies protect everyone’s health from secondhand smoke, help smokers to quit, and change social norms around tobacco use. This is not about the smokers. This is about the smoke. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air.
Central Vermont New Directions Coalition