Sep 27 2014

OPINION: Time to Protect Piedmonters from Secondhand Smoke

On Sept. 15, 2014 the Piedmont City Council voted to consider adopting secondhand smoke protections in outdoor public spaces and in common areas of multiunit housing. This was great news to me since I have had asthma for much of my adult life, caused by being exposed to heavy smoking during my childhood. I now take daily medication to control my asthma, but I remain highly allergic to tobacco smoke which literally takes my breath away. Rather than quietly accept my asthma diagnosis, I chose to put my efforts into volunteering for over 30 years for the American Lung Association and work towards supporting their fight for healthy air and lungs – from combatting air pollution and secondhand smoke to preventing children from ever starting to smoke.

By adopting these secondhand protections Piedmont will be joining the rest of the County as well as San Francisco and over 100 California cities which already have these protections.

The evidence is clear. Secondhand tobacco smoke kills 42,000 non-smoking Americans every year and sickens hundreds of thousands more, causing asthma attacks and worsening other conditions like diabetes, cancer, lung and cardiovascular diseases.

Most vulnerable are young children whose growing bodies absorb twice the toxins than adults do.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are absent from school more frequently and are more likely to do poorly on tests than are children who are not exposed.

While smoking has been prohibited in most indoor workplaces since 1995, outdoor protections statewide have been limited to doorways of government buildings and around play structures in parks. It has been up to local cities to adopt additional protections like smoke-free parks, bus stops, dining, and doorways, to ensure that residents can safely enjoy public spaces.

Researchers have found that outdoor smoke, depending on proximity and weather conditions, can reach harmful levels to nearby non-smokers. All of the cities in Alameda County with the exception of Piedmont have adopted some outdoor smoke free air protections.

I was also pleased to see that our city leaders have agreed to consider including a smoke free buffer zone around our schools and electronic smoking device emissions in the smoke protections. While it is illegal to sell or furnish these devices to anyone under 18 in California, their use among children as young as 11 has tripled over the past three years, threatening to undermine 25 years of tobacco prevention education and policies which have cut the smoking rate in half in Alameda County.

Over 65 local California communities have added e-cigarette regulations into their existing secondhand smoke protections including Hayward, Dublin, San Leandro, Berkeley, Union City, El Cerrito, Walnut Creek, and Richmond.

I not only urge Piedmont residents to support the Council’s efforts to protect all residents from outdoor secondhand smoke, but to also urge the school community to explore how they can partner with the City in keeping tobacco and nicotine out of our shared air and out of our lungs.

Michael Gardner, Piedmont Resident and Member of the Piedmont Public Safety Committee

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

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