Secondhand Smoke and COPD
My recent trip to the United States was an eye-opener to how many people are smokers there. The rules regarding where you can smoke are different to Australia, where I live. While I appreciate a person’s right to smoke a cigarette, what about my right to breathe?
Why Do People Smoke?
I know I will sound like a typical ex-smoker and a little hypocritical, however I struggle with why people still smoke. Years ago we didn’t have the information on the effects of smoking that we do now.
If you don’t know by now that smoking is responsible for many chronic diseases, you must live under a rock. Yet we continue to smoke! Governments make money from it through taxes, and tobacco companies keep returning big profits.
The World Health Organization’s statistics tell us more than 5 million people die every year directly from smoking cigarettes, with another 600, 000 dying from exposure to secondhand smoke. So why do we smoke?
My own opinion is that many of us think we’re bulletproof and nothing will happen to us — that was definitely my mindset. How many times do we hear of stories about people changing their lifestyle due to being diagnosed with a chronic illness?
Yes, everything I’m saying is what I did. Then I had a stroke/seizure — doctors weren’t 100 percent sure on which one it was. Needless to say I had to reevaluate my lifestyle if I wanted to live a long life, and giving up smoking was part of what had to happen.
It’s Our Right to Smoke
Of course there’s always the opposing opinion that it’s a person’s right to smoke cigarettes. It saddens me when I see people smoke as I can visualize what’s happening inside of them and how their body struggles to cope with every inhalation. However, it is legal and a person has the right to smoke.
My problem is why should my health be affected by someone else’s poor lifestyle choice? Surely a smoker is responsible for where they smoke and who is being affected by their choice? With so many people dying and being affected by secondhand smoke, I can only assume that someone who lights up around non-smokers is clueless to the impact it can have.
Yes, you have the right to smoke, but you shouldn’t have the right to negatively affect someone else by doing so. Wow, now I really do sound like an ex-smoker!
One of the challenges we have as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients is avoiding triggers that cause an exacerbation. Probably one of the hardest triggers I find to avoid is cigarette smoke. Like most non-smokers I can sniff out cigarette smoke from some distance, and once that smoke enters my airways the effects are almost immediate.
While I was a smoker on and off for well over 20 years, it's as a non-smoker I have come to realize the effects smoking has on non-smokers. So-called smoking areas in public venues are of little use as their effectiveness depends largely on which way the wind blows.
My New Year's Eve celebrations were cut short recently due to the smoking area of the restaurant I was at being located in an inappropriate area. As the breeze picked up during the night, cigarette smoke was directed straight through the restaurant. In the nearly five years since I was diagnosed this is the second time it’s happened.