Monday, January 05, 2009

Third-Hand Smoke

A study was just released that claims that "third-hand smoke," the residue from smoking tobacco that clings to the smoker's clothing and furniture, can also be dangerous to the people to whom the smoker is close. A major debate is raging over at a blog called "Crooks and Liars" and this is my contribution thereto.

Yes--I'm one of those people who has never smoked and has been fighting for over thirty years for the right to breathe clean air. It's become even more of a passionate issue for me since I scarred my lungs cleaning my oven three times with "fume-free" oven cleaner and then baking right away with the windows closed one holiday season. Now I cannot tolerate smoke of any kind--wood smoke, incense--even lighting too many candles with the windows closed puts me in distress. But even before that, when my then-husband smoked, I would sometimes get migraines that started with the smell of stale tobacco left in the furniture, even when he was at sea on weekly ops. Some people mentioned the fact that other smells make them ill. The difference between cloying perfume and alcohol is that the fumes from cloying perfume will not kill you or cause long-term illness. Yes--it can be annoying, but it is not fatal, as fumes and residue from tobacco products can be.

I don't know how valid this “third-hand smoke” research is, but I have fought the good fight for public health and clean air at both the local and state level and I will continue to fight this fight--both in terms of individual pollutants such as tobacco smoke, and other types of pollution such as auto emissions. We have cars that run on hydrogen and give off water. Why are they not in mass production and quickly replacing gasoline engines? Because the oil industry lobby is as large as the tobacco lobby. I also fight to clean up industrial pollution.

In short, I fight for people's rights to breathe clean air wherever they are. The Declaration of Independence mentions three "inalienable rights." Smokers often turn to this document and complain that our attempts to remove the toxins associated with smoking from the air is our way of trying to take away their right to pursue happiness. Well, I was a medic in the Navy and I fought for life. I think there's a reason Jefferson wrote "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" in that order. You cannot enjoy liberty or pursue happiness from the grave.

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