Secondhand Smoke Stories

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Sally's Story

The early morning phone call message was short and direct: "Sally died last night:"
As a family physician for over 50 years, and one who always took night calls as a part of my practice, I am not a stranger to being suddenly awakened with startling tragic news messages, such as telling me that one of my special patents is dying, or has died. However the unique circumstances of my early AM: "Sally Died Last night" call, stands out as one of the most unexpected, yet truly touching calls ever received by me as the: "Old Country Doctor Grandpa".
Who was Sally? Who called me with the death message ? Why was it especially memorable?
Sally was a highly respected young Special Ed Teacher, so dedicated to her young pupils that she worked tirelessly for almost no salary. However to supplement her meager earnings, she took a night job as part time waitress/bar tender at a Tempe Bar/Lounge.
Unfortunately the Bar/Lounge owner who deeply respected Sally, "thought the world of her" and praised her as an unequalled role model in her tender care of needy children, did not think highly enough about protecting her health. He thought that smoking customers could not be denied opportunity to pollute the indoor air for employees and other patrons.
As a result Sally as an employee sometimes choked up from breathing smoke. This caused her to prop open the outside door to let smoke out and plead with her smoking customers near the bar area to please move to the other side of the room. Sally, who couldn't afford health insurance, was simply issued a bronchodilator inhaler by her bar supervisor and advised to take some extra puffs on her inhaler whenever she choked up from smoke exposure.
On the night Sally died, she had propped open the outside door hoping to let smoke out, moved several smokers to the other side of the room and took extra puffs on her inhaler. Despite this, Sally was still struggling to breathe, so she decided to go home early, get away from the smoke, relax, and rest up. She felt compelled to be able to rise early for teaching her special needs children at school the next day. These children were truly the love of her life. She assured bar/lounge co-workers that with some extra rest at home, she would be fine, and be able to arrive safely at her school the next morning.
However she didn't arrive at her school the next morning:
To the concern of her devoted young students who restlessly waited for their beloved teacher's arrival, she didn't showed up that morning for school. In fact by mid morning when she had not showed up, and hadn't called in sick, the Principal felt very concerned. She hastily drove to Sally's home. The door was locked. There was no answer to the doorbell. Security staff were called to help pry open the door. Their worst fears were realized. There lying dead on the floor was Sally. She had completely choked up at home and stopped breathing before she could even call 911 for help.
Who surprised me as the early morning sad news messinger:? "Sally Died Last Night"
The very surprising person to call me in obvious emotional distress with the sad message of her death was the leader of the so called "Dissident Bar Owners" group. This man had been the opposition leader against smoke-free bars. He had spent at least a hundred thousand dollars in lawyer and court challenge fees seeking unsuccessfully to overturn the Tempe Smoke-Free Bars law with a Pro-Smoking Counter-Initiative. As a further surprise invitation in his emotional call to me, he and the Tempe Bar/Lounge owner as former opponents of our smoke-free bars law had already totally switched sides after Sally died from her workplace smoke exposure. They shocked me by personally inviting me, along with the community at large to join them, along with Sally's co-workers, other Teachers of youth, Sally's personal family, and the Bar community of the City of Tempe, to hold a joint Community Memorial tribute seeking to comfort two front rows of tearful grieving special needs children while honoring the all too short life of of a highly respected Special Ed Teacher.
After the touching widely attended Memorial Service, the owner of the smokey bar/lounge where the young woman had choked up from smoke the last night of her life, greeted me emotionally, as "Doctor Smoke-Free" and standing beside his distraught wife as witness, pledged a special memorial to Sally's life and her preventable early death. He pledged that henceforth there would be absolutely no more smoke exposure for any employee ever again inside his bar. He said that he deeply regretted that it took Sally's death to make him painfully aware of something that he had totally neglected: The need for protecting the health and life of his precious employees.
Follow-up report:
1) The Official coroners case Autopsy Cause of Death report for Sally was:
"Death due to fatal Asthma attack, due to Bronchospasm secondary to workplace Smoke Exposure."
2) This same bar/lounge changed after Sally died to become a totally 100% Smoke-Free Facility. There was a noticable sustained increase in new customers after taking this health step forward.
Reported by:
Leland L. Fairbanks, MD, MPH, Family Physician
Tempe, AZ 85284

Amber's Story

My mom is a big smoker, 3-4 packs a day. My children often stay at her house, but she refuses to quit smoking around them, she acts like she doesn't even care. My son has had many respiratory problems since he was born and the more I think about it, the more I relate it to her smoking, even though he only sees her once a week or so. I am thinking about telling her that the children will not be allowed to come over to her house unless she quits smoking around them. But I know she'll get all huffy and puffy and mad at me. But I know this is something I have to do for their sake. Why do some people act like they don't even care about these kids' health??
~ Amber, IA

Patrick's Story

Son with asthma wears gas mask around smoking motherMy 14 year old son's mother (we're divorced) smokes in the car and home around my son. My son has asthma, and when he is with me he is healthy. When he's with his Mom he has asthma, bronchitis and frequent infections. I had a "smoke free home" clause put in our custody order for our son in the divorce court oder, but she persists in smoking around him anyway. As a final step before taking her back to court on this, I am sending my son to her home with a gas mask that he intends to wear when he is around her. She has tried to quit before, but failed. My son supports her quitting. I'm hoping these nudges will help her quit for good (or at least get her to use nicotine gum/patch when my son is with her).
~ Patrick, CA

Kristi's Story

I have three step daughters. My husband has full custody of the girls, but they have visitation with their mother. Our home is a smoke free environment but hers is not. She and her husband both smoke and allow others to smoke in their home too. The girls are there every other weekend, and although everyone smokes in the "back room" while they are there, the children are still exposed. I tried telling "Mom" that just 1 cigarette lasts in a room for a long time, but she said it was her house and she would do what she wanted. These 3 girls have allergies, and one has severe asthma. I am angry at the fact that some parents just don't care, and even more upset that no law has been passed in my state that would classify this as child abuse.
~ Kristi, AR

Veronica's Story

My Mom smokes in front of whomever she wants. I try to stop her but it's no use she'll just yell at me. So I stopped trying to ask her to stop.
~Veronica, IN

Stephanie's Story

My ex-husband and I divorced when our son was 1 years old. At that time, smoking was not allowed in our home and my son's health was fine. Once we divorced, his father resumed smoking and that's when the trouble with my son's ears started. My son is 3 years old now and on his second set of ear tubes and has had his annoides removed. My son gets sick whenever he goes to his dad's- he always comes back with ear infections. (Besides his dad who smokes, there are also 3 other people living in the home who smoke too) My son has mild hearing loss in the left ear. I know it is the smoking. The solid proof that proved it, was this past October. Oct. 23 my son had a hearing test and the tubes were open and clear, then on November 2nd he went to his dad's for a week. On Nov. 13 was his next hearing test and it came back saying that both ears were flat and his next test said he had fluid in his ears again. His dad won't stop- I need help! I don't know what to do!
~ Stephanie, OH

Robby's Story

My aunt and uncle smoke in front of their child. I have tried and tried to get them to stop. The doctor now wants to have the child's adenoid and tonsel removed. They still don't believe it is caused by second hand smoke.
~ Robby, Alabama

Jessica's Story

My mom has smoked forever - even when she was pregnant with me, and just recently my Dad has started smoking. I can't stand it! I can't breathe, it makes my nose hurt, I cough and I smell terrible. I play soccer and I have to stop constantly because I can't breathe. It doesn't just effect me, it hurts my brother too. Why would they smoke when they know it hurts us? How can she tell us not to smoke while she sits there blowing the smoke in our face? And why won't she smoke in her room, but will smoke in the living room?
~ Jessica, North Carolina

Megan's Story

My mother smokes and seems to be okay, but I think if she stopped she'd feel a lot better about herself. All of her friends smoke and I kid with them about how they are killing me with secondhand smoke, but they just tell me to go somewhere else. I really want my Mom to quit!!!
I wish that one day she would wake up and say to herself, "Hey this is bad for me as well as my kids and I think I'll stop."
I really want her to stop smoking. It brings tears to my eyes to hear the true stories of people who have lost loved ones from tobacco!! I want her to understand!!!
~ Megan, North Carolina

Rosemarie's Story

I grew up with parents who smoked cigars and cigarettes. Since I've had a head injury, I get very dizzy and get headaches at home when someone smokes. I live in a condo that is connected to a smoker. Her smoke comes into my home through the walls - I'm in hell!
~ Rosemarie, CA

Amanda's Story

My mother has been smoking since she was a teen. Almost every morning, she wakes me up practically coughing her brains out. Why do people smoke? I really do feel sorry for her deep down but... she could end it if she really wanted to.
~ Amanda, NC

Sarah's Story

I grew up with a smoking parent, so I know how living with a smoker affects a child's health and self-esteem. To me, it seems as if my father's addiction was more important to him than his family's health, and I still have the asthma and allergies that were worsened when he smoked around me. I have also worked as a Respitory Technician, and I heard similar stories from many family members who sadly watched a loved one dying from smoking-related diseases. I ended up in the hospital myself from giving treatments to patients who insisted on smoking in the hospital even with oxygen in their rooms. Now my asthma and allergies are controlled with medication, but I have to be on the watch wherever I go to avoid the respitory reactions that occur whenever someone smokes near me. We cannot go to many places we would like because smoking is allowed, and my husband and I will not bring our children to these places. Business owners often tell us that they will not ban smoking because they will lose business, but we know that many people feel as we do, and I do not see a lack of business in any of the places that do not allow smoking now. When we decided we cannot come back to a place because of smoking, we make sure the management knows why we will not be back, and are very hopeful that the antismoking laws will allow us to enjoy the freedoms that smokers do now. It is not just a personal preference to me or my family, but a matter of our health.
~ Sarah, North Carolina

Sarah's Story

My dad and mom smoke and sometimes I have trouble breathing - everytime I try to tell them that it is worse for me to smell the smoke, they don't care. Why do you people smoke? I can't stand the smell and you and even me can die because of your mistakes. Remember, it's never to late to quit. Take a stand and let people know that you don't smoke and you will live longer now!!!
~ Sarah, North Carolina

Avery's Story

I hate it when I go to a restaurant to have a nice meal and right beside you there is a person smoking! It makes me feel like I'm about to throw up!
~ Avery, Delaware

Chris' Story

Please don't smoke around your kids. It will affect their health for the rest of their lives. I'm an adult child of a previous smoker and can tell you what I believe it did to my health and the health of my sibling. My mother smoked three packs a day until I was around 3 or 4. I believe her smoking caused my siblings recurring bronchitis during our childhood, and that it has something to do with the many allergies I have, my slight asthma and how sick I was as a child. Also, supporting what this web site says about ear tubes, my sibling and I both had ear tubes inserted during our childhood--as our ear troubles were never really taken care of as children, we still struggle with these problems.
~ Chris, Arizona

Teresa's Story

One day, my granddaughter Brittany and I, went to eat at our local waffle house. We always sit under the fans so that if someone comes in and smokes, it won't come our way. A couple came in and sat at the booth behind us. They had only been there a couple of minutes and the lady lit up a cigarette and started smoking it. That really upset Brittany. Brittany tapped the lady on the shoulder and told her, "I am asthmatic and that cigarette smoke really bothers me and can cause me to have an asthma attack." The lady told Brittany that she was sorry and she put her cigarette out!!! At this time Brittany was only three years old, she is now five years old. This shows that if you teach a child about their asthma and how serious it is, they will know what to look out for.
Oh yeah, that waffle house no longer allows people to smoke in it.
~ Teresa, North Carolina

Samantha's Story

I am so stressed with my daughter's father. My daughter has asthma but he still continues to smoke around her. His clothes/apartment/car smell so bad. He refuses to admit that it smells and that he is endangering our child. Has anyone been in this situation? And if so, what did you do? I have doctor's reports showing that each time she comes back from her father's house she is ill. Do I have a charge in court to show that he is harming her?
~ Samantha, Arizona

Samantha from Arizona, I know how you feel.
~ Kimberly, Florida

Franklin's Story

I know the detrimental health effects of secondhand smoke and am actively working to eliminate smoking in restaurants, bars, private clubs, public meeting places and all places of employment in our town and area. We, in the rest of the country that are slower to this type of activity, appreciate the example you in California have set. It is also useful in determining the steps that are necessary to obtain the results you are fortunate enough to have obtained. Thank you.
~ Franklin, Colorado



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