Smokers Killed 50,000 Americans Due to Second Hand Smoke in 2011, It's Time for a Federal Smoking Ban

Of the millions of people who died from cigarette smoking last year, over 50,000 of them were non-smokers exposed to second hand smoke. Yes, that is correct. American smokers killed 50,000 people last year.

This may come as a surprise to those of us still unaware of the many risks associated with second hand smoke. According to the Nation Institute of Health, exposure to second hand smoke irritates the airways and has immediate effects on a person’s heart health. The chemical components released in second hand smoke are associated with heart disease, asthma, and lung cancer in adult non-smokers. In children, it has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infections, leukemia, and other cancers.

In their homes, workplaces, and public facilities, 126 million non-smokers are exposed to second hand smoke each year. Can they be protected?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. In recent years, local communities around the country have implemented smoking bans. As a result, the number of people exposed to second hand smoke has decrease nationwide. Also, a recently released study found that in one state, the number of heart attacks had dropped 28% after instituting a ban on indoor smoking.

With such success the question must be raised, could federal policy be the appropriate tool to protect non-smokers? Of course it could and it should be.

Local and federal government should work towards minimizing and possibly eliminating the risk that second hand smoke poses to non-smokers. Getting second hand smoke out of public buildings, off of public transportation, and out of the lungs of non-smokers should be made a priority.

What about the smokers you ask? Wouldn’t smoking bans infringe on their right to smoke? Maybe, but here is how I see it. In this country, having the right to harm oneself has been a somewhat negotiable freedom. Harming others, on the other hand, is always out of the question. Smokers will either have to smoke alone or find another preventable cause of death for which they’d be willing to risk their lives for. It will have to be one that has no risk to others.

Photo Credit: Haprog

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Melissa Pierre-Saint

Melissa is a registered nurse and writer. She works in the ER of New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell. She lives and works in New York City.

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