What is being done to protect people from second-hand smoke? Where does the responsibility lie? Do Canadians not have the right to expect clean air?
With these questions in mind, it clearly deserves a response. The key to the issue surrounding second-hand smoke seems relatively simple—exposure to second-hand smoke is a preventable health hazard.
We, as a general population, are clearly in a position to make a difference and provide ourselves with the benefit of a healthy lifestyle. We have the ability to actually control a health issue and address change.
Second-hand smoke is real and a significant threat to public health. Scientific evidence gathered over the past three decades shows there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.
Second-hand smoke has been associated with a number of life-threatening illnesses such as lung and heart disease. For those who are non-smokers, the exposure is involuntary. For young children, it is especially disturbing since they are too young to complain.
Older children exposed to second-hand smoke may not complain and if they do, are most likely ignored.
Finally, most children are not in a position to remove themselves from exposure and are dependent on others for protection.
We know why we must make change, and change is occurring in more than 50 percent of cities and municipalities in Ontario alone. We must all take responsibility to protect everyone.
Municipal councils should use the power granted to them under the Ontario Tobacco Control Act and pass a smoke-free bylaw to protect their citizens and future generations.
A smoke-free bylaw is designed for one purpose—to protect non-smokers from the known hazards of second-hand smoke. This is beyond a simple matter of individual choice; it is a question of public health on the same level as any other sanitary and safety standard.
Why should second-hand smoke be tolerated?
The evidence is clear, let us act on it! Support bylaw initiatives in your community.
Pete Sarsfield, MD, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health
and Chief Executive Officer,
Northwestern Health Unit