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Passive smoking fires me up

Friday 27 November, 2015 by Anna Sublet

The Victorian Government announced in August that it will ban smoking in outdoor areas. Great stuff, and about time. Now, the City Of Melbourne has announced its smoke-free spaces in the CBD. 

But what about the air in my back yard?!

We're feeling the inner city pressure. Our neighbours smoke. All.The.Time. It's been four years since we could eat a meal outside. Our children have to stop playing and come in when the neighbours light up – which seems to be every five minutes. I can't even open the bedroom windows, as the smoke drifts straight in and stays. Ever since those smokin' dudes next door moved in! And I don't mean 'smokin' in a hot way.

Our washing smells of smoke, the side of the house smells like a huge ashtray. The winds from the sea push the smoke straight under our carport, where it hangs, dropping its toxic chemicals over time. I recently found myself muttering 'Kill yourself, but stop killing us!' as I fled indoors.

I have a memory of my dad from when we were kids. He would stand on the concrete back verandah in his Y-front cotton jocks, smoking Marlboro after Marlboro. Sometimes we would steal his cigarettes and burn one with the focused heat of a magnifying glass. Once, we set the whole pack on fire. He didn't get mad. He always had another pack.

Now, less than 13% of adults in Victoria smoke and it is the leading cause of preventable death, according to Quit Victoria.

A recent report in the international journal BMC Medicine on the death rates of smokers show that two thirds of smokers will die of their habit, and that smokers live around 10 years less than non-smokers. Grim. Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Michael Moore said "...smoking is still our single most preventable cause of death and disease – and kills even more smokers than we had thought."

The Sunday Age editorial of 23 August 2015 starts strongly: "Smoking kills. It also damages the body, and thus the life, of those who do it. The list of life-threatening conditions to which it contributes, such as stroke and lung cancer, is well-documented and beyond denial."

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control notes that secondhand smoke causes death, disease and disability, and calls for countries to implement strategies to protect citizens. The Australian Government's Quitnow website  notes that: "Scientific evidence has established that there is no safe level exposure to secondhand smoke." The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare lists a number of health impacts associated with passive smoking. These include asthma in children, SIDS, lower respiratory tract infections, lung cancer and coronary heart disease."

So, the evidence is in. You're killing us, neighbours! Our tiny inner-city house no longer has access to its tiny brick backyard. My gardening is restricted to quick dashes to the herb box. Our spring and summer dinners outside have been abandoned long ago, hanging out the washing is a risky respiratory business and sitting in the sun has become mostly impossible.

Perhaps here the closing pars of The Sunday Age editorial are apt:

"Smoking kills and harms. And while the smokers may say it is their right to smoke (and tacitly reap what they sow), it should not be the fate of others to inhale their smoke, no matter how little or how large. It is invasive and, to the recipient, unpleasant. There are many occasions when the state should butt out of people's lives. On this issue, the sooner the government legislates, the better." 

Please butt out, next door dudes. For your own health and for that of your highly irritated, coughing neighbours. This toxic situation has got smoke coming from my ears. 

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