Headlines recently spoke about how second hand smoke could be a punishable offense. If that were the case when I was a child, my dad would have never left jail. When we were kids, you could count on three things - bad music on the radio, no car seats for kids and windows rolled up while Mom or Dad smoked. My sisters and I used to blow the smoke back to the front seat hoping my dad would notice and roll down his window. Ugh, we hated it. Luckily, my parents got a four-door sedan and we could roll down our own windows.
Today though, it's a different story. Second hand smoke is a big deal as restaurants and bars are forced to make all areas smoke-free according to many city ordinances. It's also big business. Hotels and apartment buildings have now made smoke-free living spaces a perk for their patronage. You can now go on vacation and never even see or smell cigarette smoke. That was impossible 30 years ago.
But back then, we didn't know secondhand smoke was bad. There was still some debate as to whether smoking itself was bad for you. But now, the scientific proof is pretty compelling. In fact, we've seen patients over the last 20 years, who never smoked, coming to the doctor's office showing signs of emphysema or chronic bronchitis (COPD). Upon further questioning, you discover they worked in an office environment where everyone smoked. Sometimes, they are a spouse of a smoker. It never occurred to them to keep their distance when others were smoking.
Secondhand smoke can be a political hand-grenade. You have people on one side saying smoking bans are bad for business and others who say they have a right to breathe fresh air. I heard one person sued their neighbor because he would smoke on his back deck. The wind would then blow the smoke into the neighbor's yard. The neighbor didn't much appreciate having to smell second hand smoke while he and his family enjoyed the sun on their backyard patio.
It's a difficult argument to decide, until you start thinking about the physiological effects. Once you realize that smoking is not only bad for you, but those around you too, it seems like a no brainer. There have been many studies that looked at heart attack rates in cities that adopted smoking bans at restaurants. They found a startling decline in the number of heart attacks in their cities. This decline was only attributable to the smoking ban. What about smoking bans at places of business. There too, they found the overall health of their employees increased when second hand smoke (and first hand) was removed from the premises. They also found that more people actually quit smoking because of the ban. They figured they couldn't smoke at work any more, so they were more likely to make quit attempts. So given the research, there is just too much evidence in support of getting away from secondhand smoke, wherever it may be.