Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To live in a smoke free state

Back in 2006, Ohio voters passed a law that disallows smoking in any public building and within a certain distance of the doors. This smoking ban went into effect in May 2007. I was definitely in support of this bill and I have to say, I really am glad the law is in effect.

I have really gotten used to restaurants, bowling alleys, bars and all being smoke free and nearly forgot what it used to be like every time you went out for the evening to spend hours in the smoky environment that many of those places were. I no longer had to worry about whether to protect my coat by leaving it in the car, while I ran down the block coatless in the cold. I don't have to carefully select my outfit, to ensure it is easy to clean clothing that could be washed to get rid of the stench that seemed to become one with my clothes in that smoky environment. I no longer have to consider the debate between showering upon my return home or just piling my hair into a ponytail on top of my head so that I could sleep at night without having to smell the smoke in my hair.

I remember as a kid spending time in smoky establishments. I would regularly go to the Elks with my grandparents to play Bingo. My family would go bowling or I would go with my mom when she bowled in a league. At dinner, we would wait for non-smoking but even that was right next to the smoking section. I can even remember when I would visit my mom at her work and employees were allowed to smoke in the office. It was not something I liked, but it was something that was normal and expected.

Now, it is great to be able to take my kids somewhere and not to be bothered with smoke. I don't feel like I am risking my children's health when we want to take them bowling or to a restaurant that is a pub that wouldn't have had a non-smoking section before. Wait times at the restaurants are down (in my opinion, based on at least our favorite local Mexican joint) as the whole restaurant can be used by non-smokers (not that the faction of sections was ever complete anyway) without having to worry about someones smoking disturbing your meal.

I realized how thankful I was for all of this when this past weekend my husband and I headed to Mountaineer for the day with friends. The smoke was overwhelming. My eyes burned, my throat was dry and I was coughing. We left with less money the smell of smoke in our hair, our clothes, our skin, and our coats. We drove home together in a closed car on a cold night surrounded by that smoke that we had spent the day absorbing. When we got home, my daughter was up. I had to change my clothes before I felt like I could rock her, not wanting her to breathe in that smoke on my clothes as she snuggled up to me trying to drift off into dreamland.

I know everyone has their vise and for some it is smoking. But, you know, many smokers I know don't even smoke in their own homes or cars - recognizing that it leaves behind a smell that just won't go away. Many years ago, my parents purchased a home from a family that smoked. When we moved in and began to paint the walls or wash all of the surfaces, you could see by comparison (and the yellow drips as the cleaning solution ran down the surface) just how much build up of smoke there was on the walls, the curtains, the doors, the cabinets and everywhere else. I just can't imagine how much of that gets into your lungs as a non-smoker in a smoky environment. I have no statistics, but I would have to guess that health in Ohio has improved for non-smokers, now that they can breathe easy that the air they are breathing at most places is cleaner for the lack of smoke.

I for one am glad that I live in a state where public buildings are smoke free.