Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Asthmatic Against the Smoking Ban

Linda Lemaster August 1, 2008 Photo by Becky Johnson

by Lighthouse Linda
October 20, 2009

Last Chance Road, Santa Cruz County, Ca. -- The issue Becky Johnson is educating us about is a very important one, to me. A person's sovereignty is more crucial than the ever-widening freeway of dependency by decree under the state (and "popular opinion, as well, but at least opinion is a more enlivening phenomenon to alter). The other concern is that I/ME, personally, would like to walk where the townspeople can walk, drink from their fountains, stand in their regular queues instead of needing the oft-demeaning "special attention" to get any social, chore, or bureaucratic trafficking done. Two things at odds: why has this frustration "silenced" me?

I am impressed by Becky Johnson's information. She has convinced me that the phenomenon of "secondhand smoke" is one of those mostly-conjured public policies.

This happens. People in positions of power try to oversimplify things and so end up lying to the rest of us. Then there's the other 25% (guessing) of people who are just so fixated on their own trip they care little about integrity or how their words or work affects others. I was glad to see Becky's example of Johnson & Johnson's. They are some of the criminal exploiters who could care LESS about the rest of us as also-human but rather see us as consuming carriers of credit cards - a resource to be had, like aluminum ore or coke for making steel. It leads to THIS: we who prefer to actually be able to think for ourselves (and our families and loved ones, perhaps?) and to take some responsibility -- as best we can -- for our knowledge and our actions are up against such deceit.

I am an asthmatic, now with COPD. I can't even be near some Huffsters who I care deeply about without asthma reactions and risk of immunological breakdowns. I can't breathe at all in many downtown locations. Not even with all the drugs money can buy (or, the state is willing to buy, at any rate, but that's a whole other story!). I am banished in effect because to stay alive, to breathe, I have to avoid toxified air and poisons in many forms.

I have learned much, but the asthma and lungs continue to get worse because we all live in such a cesspool. Granted, less of one in Santa Cruz than most citified places (unless you're on the edge of our otherwise beautiful San Lorenzo River for too long, or hovering over the grease and nitrites of hot dogs at the Boardwalk in order to work, or .....) I mean, it's nicer here than any place I've ever lived, except
Seattle. So there! Make of this what you will.

I'm one hundred percent against the new Smoking Ban! The "smoking" gun seems to be just another way to "blame the victim" while the rivers and, in industrial areas and big commuting zones, the air, gets tox'ed to death. I just know that having lived with a husband for seven years who chain smoked, my lungs were not helped a bit. Yet what "did me in," from the best research and study I can manage, is OTHER poisons! Examples follow.

1. The job I had when 1 was 19, 20, and beyond, where I had to inhale the fumes of photo lithography in order to set headlines for daily and weekly newspapers and "trucks" (ad papers) that sold things for supermarkets. "When the red light is on, do not enter." I was too ignorant to realize I needed ventilation (or more) and the only air I could get while at that work station was opening the door, spoiling the work. I was the "bottom man" on the workplace totem pole, not because I was new, but because I was a female. This was a "real" job, before PC's.

2. While I lived with said husband for 7 years, we moved to
Santa Cruz and a year later, I had my first asthma attack. But it wasn't his cig habit, it was the illegal (perhaps underground?) business across the generally quiet street. They were spray-painting cars, and refurbishing them. On the curb, two doors from my place. Averaging two cars a week, sometimes more, and doing this work evenings, when everybody in the neighborhood was around. It is possible that the train (two doors going the other direction) contributed too to my lungs' weakening and illness, but it didn't seem apparent at the time. Twice a day trains. I did not realize the car-painting operation was hurting me until I was forced to move for being politically active while parenting (oh! the audacity!). After I moved, I was off the asthma drugs within three days despite other stress-stuff. I was busy and it didn't occur to me that people ran their illegal businesses right out in front of everybody. Never realized I could "turn in" this culprit. By the time I moved, apparently there had been horribly permanent damage in my lungs.

3. Later, the most comfy-cottage home I ever rented in the City of
Santa Cruz (was also a homeowner once) turned out to be a Black Mold stronghold. The mold wasn't discovered until a new owner evicted my family and tore the place apart. What a shocking sight! Yet I didn't realize at the time it was extremely toxic for many people. The mold was in only one room, but it caused serious health damage to my daughter and myself, and for all I know, to my younger son who was born while I was living there. Once my doctor asked me, at the emergency room, "How can you get SO sick, yet heal SO fast in here?" He also predicted I'd die, but that was long ago and luckily I got evicted first.

So this is just a little "tip of the iceberg" true story about serious toxic environments that go way beyond "second hand smoke" and its ability to irritate. For me, it means somehow avoiding, perhaps forever: people who wear perfume n cologne, roof tarring, auto diesel exhaust, ammonia products, and all kinds of food additives, and growing. Not an easy task for anyone.

I believe people should do all they can to avoid breathing in poisons, regardless of degree, since we can't really know. We each have a unique pair of lungs and other equipment (hearts, for starters) to sustain them. I am less angry about the lives I got cheated out of because of our collective ignorance and other people's greed or neglect, when I think maybe some people can see my loss as their opportunity to protect and enjoy their own lungs (a “canary”).

My heart is still broken for my son who started smoking young (school culture cinched it), tho' he's quit finally, well into adulthood. I pray for cigarette addicts, that they may recover from the consumer exploitation that's defining much of their lives. All their senses can recover.

Nonetheless, I cannot take sides with those who would conform us all into pigeonholes because they don't know how to do anything socially, community-wise, besides make more laws and further force and predetermine our lives, our behaviors, or our shared destiny. Over-regulation feels just as pre-emptive to me as having to avoid public places and restaurants during mealtimes and happy hour -- finding when they are nearly empty is critical if I go out.

After much internal turmoil, having read Becky's information and arguments on second-hand smoke, and trying to sort my way through my own difficult conflicted feelings, I'm leaning way towards less regulation of public cigarette smoking. Or at the very least, regulate something fair instead of always creating adversarial solutions.

In addition, as one of the people who worked to help pass Prop 215 (which became SB 420 when it passed) I am simply distraught about the fact that cities are over-regulating the use of public marijuana smoking for disabled people. Those folks, because they need nontoxic help, are getting pushed into the paranoid field of an existing "underground" mentality.

It's hard enough to be a crip (disabled, different, etc) without the extra handicap of having to worry about where you can take the one medicine that makes it possible for your system to handle the other more radical drugs (the ones from the pharmaceutical industry) which are perhaps keeping you alive or giving you back some of your mobility or breath etc. My doctor tells me that many people have been able to cut back and even quit some of their drugs with harsh side effects on account of using pot. (I'm not yet one.)

Smokers need to have places they are safe and comfortable, other than in the doorways of "no smoking" buildings (my pet peeve). And if cigarette butts are an issue, put in ashtrays and a sign that EDUCATES people to not litter because of the inevitable pollution our waterways suffer in our blas̩ ignorance. It doesn't feel good that smokers can't go where other people go. It doesn't feel good that I can't go where others go. And it doesn't feel right that we join those who would punish the victim instead of taking up arms against the more obvious polluters Рcommercial corporations which seem to pervert or avoid regulatory systems built to protect us. We need a LOUD VOICE, but not to niggle with each other

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