I grew up in an evangelical household. We didn’t smoke, drink, dance, go to inappropriate movies and, other than the news, we rarely watched television. Our social life was church. The reins were tight at home, but I slipped my tether in college. I took up both drinking and smoking. Then I met who I thought was the woman of my dreams and she said she wouldn’t kiss me unless I quit smoking. If she wasn’t going to kiss me, other things were out too, so I quit.
I failed going cold turkey; however, I managed to quit by switching to cigars (I couldn’t smoke as many in a day) and then to a pipe; it was so much trouble that smoking lost its allure.
Recently the news has been filled with stories about people who have died from vaping. The New York Times reports that more than 1,300 people have been sickened and 27 have died in vaping incidents.
Of course, the vast majority — if not all — of these conditions have been caused by vaping products that contain illicit cannabis oil and THC substances, which should give marijuana legalization advocates pause.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 480,000 people die from tobacco use every year, including 41,000 people from secondhand smoke. Smokers die, on average, ten years earlier than nonsmokers, and 67 percent of them die directly as a result of their addiction. There are more than 16 million Americans currently suffering from smoking-related diseases.
While neither practice is healthy or recommended, vaping is the better alternative for smokers.
Inogen, an oxygen provider, commissioned a study using a methodology that measured particles emitted by smokers outdoors in designated smoking areas; the study found that even a distance of 25 feet isn’t safe for nonsmokers.
According to the CDC, secondhand smoke contains 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which cause cancer and hundreds more are toxic to humans.
In 2009, South Dakota passed SDCL 34-46-14 which states, “No person may smoke tobacco product or carry any lighted tobacco product in any public place or place of employment.” That’s a good start, but what about the clouds of smoke that children, the elderly and the rest of us have to endure outside the Corn Palace, sitting in the stands at Cadwell Park or walk through on our way in to work or on city streets?
The CDC reports, “Secondhand smoke harms children and adults, and the only way to fully protect nonsmokers is to eliminate smoking in all homes, worksites and public places.” I would argue that “all public places” includes the great outdoors.
I’m not unsympathetic to my smoking friends; I know the pangs of desire and withdrawal, the ritual of lighting up and having a smoke with a drink, etc. However, only 15.5 percent of Americans smoke, and they shouldn’t be allowed to raise the risk of illness and death for the rest of us by smoking in public outdoors.
South Dakota has a policy called “preemption” which means that local governments, like the city of Mitchell, are powerless to enact measures that are more restrictive than state law. It is up to our legislators to ban the use of tobacco products in public anywhere. Under such legislation, smokers could still have vaping available, as vaping doesn’t produce secondhand smoke. That policy would allow smokers a way to deal with their addiction publically, without endangering the rest of us.
Of course prices fluctuate based on usage and brand, but a pack-a-day smoker in 2019 can expect to spend more than $2,550 on cigarettes; that doesn’t count any health costs resulting from smoking.
I quit smoking in 1979. The girl of my dreams didn’t kiss me, or anything else, anyway. She broke my heart but saved my life. Tough love, and a public ban, may be just what some smokers need to save their lives, too.