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Readers Split on Banning vs. Allowing Outside Smoking

December 4, 2019 Featured, Smoke Free No Comments

As a kid in the 70s smoking was everywhere. My parents smoked in our home (though not much) and in the car, patrons smoked in restaurants where we ate, and on television people smoked. It just was.

My wake up alarm each morning was my dad’s cough. Born in 1929 & 1931, my parents were part of the Silent Generation (births 1928-1945). This generation was big time smokers.

My mom’s older brother (Greatest Generation) died of lung cancer at age 62. A decade later one of my dad’s younger brothers also died of lung cancer, at 57.

Smoking was just ubiquitous, it was unescapable. Thankfully that has changed, and smoking rates have dropped accordingly.

From two weeks ago:

Cigarette smoking dropped to an all-time low among American adults in 2018, according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report released Thursday. According to the report, 13.7% of U.S. adults smoked a cigarette in 2018.

Since the first Surgeon General’s report warned of the health implications of smoking over 50 years ago, cigarette smoking has declined by approximately two-thirds. (CBS News)

My dad was able to quit about 25 years before he died, my mom tried and failed at quitting many times before she died. Neither knew the health risks when they started, but both learned how addictive nicotine is.

No smoking sign on the Washington University Medical School/BJC campus.

I’m sympathetic to smokers, but I can’t tolerate the smoke — especially now that I have kidney cancer. Just stay inside and avoid smokers, right?  Except that I have to take a bus & train to get to treatment.

Occasionally at my local bus stop someone will light up, but they’re usually considerate enough to step away from the rest of us — in a direction so their smoke won’t blow on us. At the Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center the walkways are narrow. Since reopening this location and all Metro properties have been designated smoke-free. People are still adjusting, but more often I see people walk over to 14th Street sidewalk to smoke. Again, this is courteous. As a wheelchair user I’ve got to be at a specific spot so the bus driver knows I want to get on that bus. I must be there — I have no choice.

No smoking sign at the Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center.

Too often groups of riders get off a bus and light up on their way to light rail, ignoring the signs indicating the entire facility is designated smoke-free. Again, the walkways are narrow and others of us are waiting for our bus to arrive. We’re assaulted by a parade of smokers.

The other day I was on the Central West End MetroLink (light rail) platform after visiting my Oncologist and noticed two people smoking as I got to my spot to board the train. A guard was nearby, she quickly talked to them — they left. Our light rail platforms have been smoke-free for decades — but people still think since it’s outside it’s ok.

Once on the train an older guy across the aisle had an unlit cigarette in his mouth. Every minute or two he raised his hands to his mouth like he was going to light it. Highly addicted!

I’m so glad entire campuses are smoke-free. It makes visiting them a joy — not having to push through a crowd of smokers at entrances. Smoking rates in Missouri are still slightly higher than the national average. Yes, tobacco is a legal product. So’s alcohol. Recreational weed will be legal in Illinois in less than a month — but not in public.  People have a right to smoke, but that right doesn’t permit them to force me to inhale their smoke.

For decades the tobacco industry targeted low-income, LGBT, and racial minorities.  These are the groups where smoking is still more common. Industries like construction and food service have higher rates than others. It’s harder for someone surrounded by smokers to quit.

Most parking garages are open to the outdoors, including the 9th Street Garage. Also posted as a no smoking area.

Outside isn’t always big open space, often you get lots of people in a confined space: bus shelter, train platform, building entrance, etc. Nonsmokers have a right to be in these places without having to endure the smoke of others.

It’s not 1960 anymore, smoking isn’t ubiquitous.

Still readers are split on the subject in the recent Sunday Poll — a slight majority favor outside bans:

Q: Agree or disagree: Smoking should be allowed anywhere outside.

  • Strongly agree: 7 [18.42%]
  • Agree: 6 [15.79%]
  • Somewhat agree: 4 [10.53%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 5 [13.16%]
  • Disagree: 5 [13.16%]
  • Strongly disagree: 10 [26.32%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [2.63%]

Local universities do a much better job enforcing smoke-free policies on large campuses than Metro does on relatively small properties. Metro announces their no eating/drinking policy on MetroLink platforms — I’ve yet to hear a similar announcement about not smoking on Metro’s property.

— Steve Patterson


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