Today, we have insolent smokers who feel put upon by today’s barriers to their smoking pleasure. If you lunch at a sidewalk café or on the deck of a restaurant, you are likely to encounter wafting smoke, sometimes from a staff member taking a break at a back door. If you have health issues and must avoid smoke, you should probably dine inside, but even then you will likely run a gauntlet of smoke at the venue’s entrance or in the parking lot.
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Even worse, if you are a patient seeing your pulmonologist or entering an ER due to shortness of breath, it is not unusual to encounter smokers outside the entrance to the medical building. Despite signs reporting the area to be a smoke-free zone, smoking patients or visitors choose pleasure over the safety and well-being of others. If you ask offenders to put out their cigarettes, chances are you will be met with begrudging indignation and sometimes with curt refusals. Occasionally, a dispute between a smoker and non-smoker escalates into a physical confrontation.
Smokers should not callously endanger the lives of others. People with asthma can easily suffer an attack whereby tissues swell and close air passages. They can die. So, too, people seeking a diagnosis for shortness of breath could unknowingly have pneumonia and their labored breathing could be fatally exacerbated by exposure to smoke.
Those with COPD (emphysema, chronic bronchitis), lung cancer and other breathing issues can also be brought closer to death. A lit cigarette in the vicinity of an oxygen tank has the potential for a fiery explosion. Surely everyone knows they must not hold a lit cigarette while pumping gas, but many do not know that pure oxygen is also volatile. “Smoke free” campus signs posted at medical complexes should include a phone number so a weakened patient can, if needed, obtain a security employee to clear a safe path of entry.
Cigarettes have no reasonable qualification for existence and should be entirely banned, but too many American citizens treasure their personal freedom of choice to do the wrong thing. We daily see the effects of flaunting safety systems in the form of traffic fatalities. We all need to be more mindful of the well-being of others, and that includes being civil to ailing people. We need to avoid making another sick person’s situation more difficult.
We all know people who found the strength to stop smoking. It should be a crime to expose children to smoke, and many such children will grow up to be smokers. It is time to stop polluting the air we breathe. We need to value lung health for all, and civility should be brought back into fashion. Let’s all work together for better attitudes and better health.
KAREN COOPER, LAKE WORTH
Smokers should not callously endanger the lives of others. People with asthma can easily suffer an attack whereby tissues swell and close air passages. They can die.