[hand]As the faint, stale aroma of previously-smoked cigarettes carries through dimly lit PT O’Malley’s, Jaclyn Finnerman tends the bar waiting for her next customers. Thinking it would be great to soak up the nightlife while getting paid well, Finnerman has only one small qualm about being a bartender: as a non-smoker, she fears the health risks of second-hand smoke. And in a college-town bar, there\’s plenty of it.
“All the smoking affects my sinuses and it can sometimes get hard to breathe in here, but after being here for a while you get used to it and I love working here,” Finnerman said.
Finnerman has adjusted to the poignant smells that fill P T O’Malley’s Bar and Grill. “It’s usually not a problem as long as the fans keep the circulation going on here,” Finnerman said.
But for those routinely surrounded by enough smoke to equal a pack-a-day nicotine habit, there can be some serious health risks. According to Olin’s Guide to Quit Smoking (http://www.healthed.msu.edu/smoking/), those who inhale smoke secondhand account for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year, most of which do not smoke at all.
Smoking has become just as synonymous with bars as alcohol, but the issue of second hand smoke raises the question – should non-smokers have to endure smoke in order to enjoy the bar?
Some legislators say no. In 2004, Gov. Jennifer Granholm increased the tax on tobacco from $2.00 a pack to $2.05 a pack. This is a part of a state-wide campaign to ban smoking in Michigan bars, restaurants, and other public places. Twenty-six states have now legally banned smoking in public work places, restaurants and bars, supporters hope to add Michigan to that increasing list of states.
Roberto Reyes, Jr., a professional writing and digital rhetoric senior, has been smoking since age 17, and feels that even though there may be individuals who do not smoke in public places, accommodating both is important. “I would say that the profits of businesses would be one of the first thoughts for legislatures, but given that most of the responses and smoking bans could actually cause local businesses to lose money, it\’s an odd situation,” Reyes said.
Lindsey Nichols, a waitress at The Post Bar, thinks the ban would be a positive step. Nichols is currently in the process of quitting smoking, and feels that working in a bar does not necessarily increase her craving for nicotine. “I would love to have a ban on smoking in bars because I think it would make it a lot healthier,” Nichols said.
Recently, Harvard University School of Public Health conducted a study dealing with tobacco products across different brand names (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nicotine/trends.pdf). The Harvard study found there has been an 11 percent increase in the level of nicotine in cigarettes from 1998 to 2005, making it more difficult than ever for users to quit.
Reyes said tobacco companies do not take into account the health risks of their products and how their decisions affect their customers. “I don\’t think [tobacco companies] consider the health risks – I think they consider the profit margins,\” Reyes said. \”One of the major things that folks who smoke realize is that this is not about health or about safety or welfare. It\’s fairly obvious that the cigarette companies care less about people and more about making money.\”
So are tobacco companies to blame?
Kara Anderson of the Adolescent Health Education Services through the Ingham County Health Department, said not exactly – the media is at fault, as well as vendors who sell to minors. “The media makes [smoking] look favorable,\” she said. \”I put responsibility on the sellers of cigarettes in our society who let underage people buy them,” Anderson said.
[wall]Adolescent Health Education Services, known formerly as Willow Plaza Teen Services, was started in 2005 as a peer education program for adolescents ages 11 to 21. The services work to promote awareness with young people on issues such as smoking cessation, teen pregnancy and abstinence.
Along with counseling, there are many different methods that have developed to aid people who want to quit smoking. Some of the most popular methods are Nicotine patches or gum, brand switching methods, using the gradual cutback or step process, or even a prescription drug called Zyban (Bupropion).
According to Anderson, after expressing a want and need to quit, one of the biggest reasons many are unsuccessful is a result of having no support system. “Anytime someone is trying to do something, there is a need for a support system,\” Anderson said. \”When you are trying to quit you don’t need others in your family or support system that aren’t ready.\”
Anderson said a program like Adolescent Health Education, which covers specific topics that help smokers learn about themselves and addiction – promotes three main goals. During the sessions you learn what addiction is, personal triggers, and also awareness and health advocacy. Anderson said the next step is following up and making sure participants develop that support system. “There is only so much that can be done in an hour session – that will not make people quit,” Anderson said.
Reyes believes there is a common misconception that smokers do not understand the health risks associated with smoking. “It\’s very easy to demonize smoking at the moment, especially since people seem to think that smokers haven\’t yet understood how dangerous it is,\” Reyes said. \”One thing people need to understand is that, yes, I am a smoker and I know it\’s horrible for me.\”
Anderson believes the health risks are not necessarily ignored, but that many young people think the harmful effects will not affect them. \”In our society, we have a tendency to gravitate to the perception that it feels good,” Anderson said.
However, students like chemical engineering freshman Princy Mathai understand that cigarettes are harmful and can become a “disgusting” habit. “Cigarettes smell gross and taste gross and when you inhale it, well at least in my case, it hurts my lungs and gives the rough feeling in my throat and disgusting after taste in my mouth,” Mathai said.
Instead, Mathai endorses a flavored tobacco smoking process called hookah. A hookah is a water pipe that consists of many different chambers, and according to Mathai results in “less irritation” to the smoker’s throat.
Donald McGrath, manager of Blue Midnight Hookah Lounge on Albert Avenue and a hookah smoker of six years, agrees that hookah is not only different than cigarettes but better.
“Shisha – which is the tobacco [used in hookah]- contains no tar and very little amounts of nicotine so it is not like smoking cigarettes at all,” McGrath said. He equates hookah’s popularity to a social phenomenon. “It is definitely a social thing, where more people smoke cigarettes because it’s a habit – hookah is more for fun,” McGrath said.
[face]According to Reyes, many focus on the negative aspects and health risks of smoking but to him, it serves as a social activity. “I\’ve met the majority of my friends through smoking and have kept them while smoking,\” he said. \”Smoking actually does create an atmosphere all of its own. It\’s sort of like a safe space for other smokers to converse. It\’s an interesting phenomenon when you look at it.\”

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