The face of tobacco has changed dramatically. In the 50’s, smoking was strongly associated with a glamorous lifestyle, but now big tobacco industries are taking a hit from the scientific research that has shown the deleterious effects that smoking has on one’s health. Focus now falls on getting tobacco users to quit, as well as newfound efforts to protect non-smokers from dangerous second-hand smoke.
Great American Smokeout
The 29th annual Great American Smokeout took place on November 17, 2005. The American Cancer Society sponsors this national event in the hopes that people will stop smoking for the duration of the day and in this process gain enough self-efficacy to quit for good. Volunteers around the nation participate by handing out cold turkey subs and goody bags.
The Drug Info Center participated in the event by setting up a booth on vendor’s row and handing out bags brimming with help-you-quit goodness. Lauren Sindelar, coordinator for the DIC, told me that their plan of attack focused less on pressuring people to stop smoking. Said Sindelar, “We let people make the choice to quit, then we give the tools to be successful.” This was evident in their relaxed manner on vendor’s row; rather than hassling people and making a loud fuss, the DIC reps just sat quietly behind their table, engaging people in pleasant conversation when they came up to the booth.
Part of the reason that Sindelar chose to take a less forceful approach for the Great American Smokeout is because the DIC focuses on supporting and informing people.
Sindelar especially takes the “unbiased” part to heart.” People can come to us and ask whatever questions they might have about drugs or alcohol.”
So does this mean you can go and sit down with someone who’s knowledgable and have your questions about psychaedelic mushrooms answered? “Absolutely.” Will the DIC representative contact the police with tasers? Absolutely not. In fact, Sindelar said that there is at least one person that e-mails or calls the DIC a day to ask various questions.
Did you know that after December 8, 2005 all of Washington is going smoke-free in all public places? This includes— and is not limited to— bars, bowling alleys and non-tribal casinos. Also, people will not be allowed to smoke within 25 feet of a building to avoid smoke getting in through ventilation (though there is some question about how strongly this will be enforced, especially in parts of Seattle where you would have to stand in the middle of the street to be 25 feet from any building).
I-901 is the initiative that puts all of these new laws into effect and was passed with a resounding majority in November of this year. Opponents wailed that this was all an effort to force people to quit smoking, but Sindelar reiterated the main argument of the pro I-901 camp— “People who are customers or employees should not be exposed to the hazards of smoking.”
The website of the campaign to get I-901 passed gave the following striking information: “Waitresses are more likely to die from lung cancer or heart disease than any other female occupation group. Bartenders are twice as likely to die of lung cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related causes as workers in other industries.”
The anti I-901 Web site and campaign were run by Dave Wilkinson. Sindelar admitted that his arguments against the initiative were valid. “His reasons include the fact that people’s civil liberties are being looked over,” she said. According to Wilkinson’s website, the initiative is “nannyism. It’s Big Brother.”
Wilkinson is also skeptical about the American Cancer Society, one of the main contributors to the pro I-901 campaign. “My belief is the American Cancer Society is being paid millions by big pharmaceutical companies to switch people from smoking cigarettes to other drugs such as Zyban nicotine patches or gum. They even have a pamphlet specifically designed for Washington residents and this proves my point about a connection. In the pamphlet it states, ‘find out which medications can help you quit.’”
Business owners and Wilkinson were the most vocal opponents to I-901. Some business owners are now trying to figure out if their clientele will change or diminish in number at all after December 8. If the resounding majority that passed I-901 has anything to do with it, business owners have nothing to worry about.