Russia recently announced a ban on smoking which is important since forty percent of their population smokes. Having traveled to the country several times I initially thought the high rate was due to the cold weather. The cold was the answer to the fur hats and the popularity of the stick shift vehicles. I asked why vodka was so popular and the answer was ‘vodka doesn’t freeze.’ However, the high smoking rate in Russia may be fueled by the low costs of cigarettes not the need for something warm in cold. The overall smoking rate in the U.S is 19% but Latinos had one of the lowest rate at 12.9%. Go ‘mi gente!’ This is significant given tobacco companies have targeted our community with English and Spanish language marketing. No one is immune. Blacks, who have a high smoking rate, are targeted in Ebony, and Jet magazine.
I had to wonder why we’re not healthier as a population. The list of health issues related to tobacco smoke is troubling. For example heart disease, cancer, and Black and Latino children suffer more from asthma, about 8%. The findings further suggested Puerto Rican children had a significantly higher rate of asthma than Mexican-American children. The culprits to this paradox may be pollution and secondhand smoke; it’s difficult to disaggregate the causes since both contribute.
Many states in the U.S. have implemented a smoking ban in restaurants and bars but not all states. What if you don’t work in an office building, are you impacted by secondhand smoke? Multi-unit housing such as condos or apartments is another concern especially for the people in big cities or who don’t have a free-standing home. The state of California was the first state to ban smoking in public areas. I recently read about a California bill that prohibits smoking inside multi-unit residences which share walls, floor, ceilings or ventilations systems. This bill addresses unavoidable secondhand smoke for a person in these living situations. Like any new law concerns have been raised such as landlord responsibilities and enforcement.
Is secondhand smoke impacting you in the workplace or home? Is California on the right track?
Julia Perez is an electrical engineer and writer for Being Latino.