Secondhand smoke focus of Smokeout campaign

by Mickie Barg

Today’s Great American Smokeout has changed tactics. The 24th Annual American Cancer Society-sponsored day has shifted from getting smokers to abstain for a day to promoting awareness of second-hand smoke and its adverse effects.
“When it first began it was all about getting people to quit,” said Mark Mahon, American Cancer Society communications and marketing assistant. “This year we want people to be aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke, particularly in bars and restaurants.”
Secondhand smoke has been established as a health risk because nonsmokers inhale and absorb nicotine and other harmful compounds such as ammonia, formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide in smoke the same way a smoker does.
Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke on a daily basis develop heart disease 20 percent faster than people who are not regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, according to American Cancer Society statistics. It also increases the incidence of cancer and strokes.
Coronary heart disease deaths caused by exposure to secondhand smoke are estimated at between 35,000 people and 62,000 people nationwide each year. Lung cancer deaths caused by exposure to secondhand smoke are estimated at 3,000 per year, according to Center for Disease Control statistics.
Even though smoking and secondhand smoke pose health risks, some University smokers prefer to smoke while they eat or drink coffee.
“It is always a big disappointment when we go somewhere and can’t smoke,” said advertising junior Erin Puzel. “Uncommon Grounds is nonsmoking and we never go there.”
Espresso 22 owner Kamran Shahmirzadi operates a smoking-only coffee shop. He would not change his establishment to nonsmoking due to the existing large nonsmoking common area in the Dinkydome. He said it would be bad business.
“My customers are 80 percent smokers,” Shahmirzadi said. “If I didn’t allow smoking, I would be closed down within two weeks.”
Some other coffee shops near the University are all nonsmoking or cater to both smokers and nonsmokers.
The European Grind in Stadium Village has both. The smoking section is always busier, said manager Beth Schulz.
“Definitely people who smoke need coffee with a cigarette and appreciate the option,” Schulz said. “When they need to get homework done they go to the nonsmoking section because it’s less social.”
Nonsmokers don’t complain about the smoke because there is a good ventilation system, she said.
But University freshman Katie Hardgrove prefers to be sure her environment is smoke-free.
“I can’t go into smoking places, like the Purple Onion, for more than a second or my hair and clothes smell really bad,” Hardgrove said. “I don’t have time to do that much laundry.”
With its primary promotional focus on the importance of choosing a healthy eating environment, the Great American Smokeout will be promoted at Arby’s restaurants with special offers and information to remind people of the concern about environmental smoke.
Lung cancer deaths for the state of Minnesota will reach 2,200 this year, according to an American Cancer Society estimate.
According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, Minnesota has the fifth lowest smoking prevalence rate among adults in the United States at 19.5 percent.

Mickie Barg covers public health and welcomes comments at [email protected]