The list of toxic substances in the air around us can be daunting to consider, but one of the most important yet preventable of them all is secondhand smoke, which is a lethal, unseen, almost phantom-like toxin that permeates the air in which we live and breathe. A recent joint study from British and Chinese researchers published in the January 2013 issue of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine strongly links secondhand smoke with both severe and mild dementia, damaging parts of the brain responsible for reason. My sense of reason tells me that our acute sense of smell and our capacity for compassion has become immune to the dangers and that we cannot escape the "silent spring" that infringes on our lives during every season of the year.
Secondhand smoke from cigarettes is still allowed to continue in many cities and towns here in Sonoma County. Fortunately, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Sebastopol and the county do have smoking bans in place for multi-unit housing and bus stops, but we need to urge the City Council of Santa Rosa and other cities to enforce smoking bans in multi-unit housing, bus stops and other public areas. Without such enforcement, elders, children and medically sensitive residents are subjected to the hazards of secondhand smoke on a daily basis.
During the last couple of years, I have devoted volunteer time with the Northern California Center for Well Being, where I have joined their expert and passionate advocacy staff for workshops, presentations to the City Council of Santa Rosa and have unofficially designated myself as a representative for my fellow elders who suffer the effects and health hazards from secondhand smoke every day and every night.
My heart tells me it is right to want change, and that it is right to not be quiet or to not give up. I keep waiting for my city of Santa Rosa to listen.
Nina Tepedino lives in downtown Santa Rosa.
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