As I write this letter, 72 per cent of respondents to the Nelson Star’s question of the week — Should the City of Nelson create more smoke-free zones in public areas? — have answered “Yes.”
Since tobacco was identified as a cause of lung cancer 60 years ago, knowledge of its broader health effects has grown. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. More than 50 diseases and health conditions are known or suspected to be caused by tobacco.
When consumed in any form, but particularly when smoked, it is carcinogenic — including second-hand smoke. Smoking is responsible for 16.6 per cent of all deaths in Canada according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The illnesses it causes are cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.
According to Health Canada, close to half of all smokers will die from smoking before they turn 70-years-old.
Tobacco use is estimated to cost the health care system in Canada more than $4 billion in direct costs annually and an additional $12.5 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity, longer-term disability and premature death.
Yet there is good news: six out of 10 Canadians who have ever smoked have now quit. And, according to a 2012 survey, nearly two-thirds of smokers were considering quitting within six months and three out of 10 smokers were considering quitting in the next month.
By creating more smoke-free zones in public areas (is it too much to ask for our sidewalks to be smoke-free?), the City of Nelson will be sending a message to those who do smoke that it is not tolerated in the city.
In addition, it may be the message needed to encourage some smokers to quit and prevent others from starting smoking.
The BC Lung Association has been dedicated to promoting and improving lung health for all British Columbians for more than 100 years and eliminating tobacco-related lung disease in future generations is one of the BCLA’s key objectives.
On behalf of the BCLA, I urge the City of Nelson to say “no smoking in public areas in our city.”
Nelson Volunteer Director
BC Lung Association