Don't let pro-smoking lobby put Hawaii residents at risk
IT APPEARS some people would like lines to be drawn between smokers and nonsmokers in a very ugly fashion. I am dismayed that we soon might be engaged in a war within the Legislature in which lawmakers will be subjected to a lobbying assault motivated by self-interest to amend or repeal a law designed to protect all Hawaii residents from secondhand smoke in public spaces.
Secondhand smoke inhaled by children increases their risk of respiratory illnesses, middle ear infections and decreased lung function. The effects on the elderly are similar.
If someone in a family smokes, he or she might want to consider the effects of smoking on the unwitting victims who might be exposed to secondhand smoke in the car, at home or other places. Hawaii's current law to protect the breath of everyone, however, is not a matter of freedom of choice; it's the law and is meant to safeguard the lungs of all residents and our visitors.
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature death and disability and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is responsible for approximately 2,304 deaths per year in Hawaii and 440,000 nationwide, with an approximate annual cost of $553,450,000. It greatly increases the risk of contracting asthma, cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking leads to 66 percent more complicated births among women who smoke during pregnancy.
When a smoker decides to quit, we and other organizations are here to help. Smokers can call the American Lung Association's Quit Line from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hawaii time at 800-LUNG-USA for advice, support and understanding from real people, most of whom are former smokers. The American Lung Association of Hawaii conducts Freedom from Smoking Clinics, a two-month program in the workplace to help smokers understand and move beyond their addiction.
We each need to remember, "When you can't breathe, nothing else matters."
Jean Evans is the executive director of the American Lung Association of Hawaii.