By Cliff Despres, Institute for Health Promotion Research, UT Health San Antonio
By choosing to not puff away indoors, smokers deserve a thank-you for protecting their family, friends and neighbors from secondhand smoke, especially during the COVID-19 respiratory pandemic.
That’s why the new “Mil Gracias (A Thousand Thanks) for Not Smoking Indoors!” campaign, led by a team of experts at UT Health San Antonio, is inviting people to share gratitude for smokers who respect others’ air:
Email a “thank you” message to smokers who protect others by not smoking indoors.
Sign a letter acknowledging the health consequences of secondhand smoke exposure.
Share the need to reduce secondhand smoke in multifamily dwellings.
“Smokers have the power to slow the spread of disease and COVID-19 by not smoking indoors, thus protecting people from secondhand smoke dangers and the possibility of coronavirus airborne transmission,” said Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, health disparities researcher and director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. “Smokers who do not smoke indoors deserve our thanks.”
The campaign is led by San Antonio health experts: Ramirez; Claudia Miller, MD, MS, allergist/immunologist and professor emeritus at UT Health San Antonio; and Mandie Svatek, MD, a pediatrician at UT Health San Antonio who leads the South Texas Asthma Coalition.
Reason #1 to Thank a Smoker for Not Smoking Indoors: Secondhand Smoke Dangers
By volunteering to not smoke indoors, you can reduce dangerous secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke has killed millions of people. It contains more than 7,000 chemicals and is linked to certain cancers, heart disease, stroke and more.
“There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Svatek, associate professor of pediatrics in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. “Effects of secondhand smoke also include more severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections and ear infections.”
Reason #2 to Thank a Smoker for Not Smoking Indoors: COVID-19 Issues
By volunteering to not smoke indoors, you can reduce susceptibility and severity of COVID-19.
People who smoke are at greater risk for severe COVID-19. People who vape may be 5-7 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19. Secondhand smoke is a potent airway irritant. Lungs can only take so much. If a smoker has COVID-19 and you smell their exhalations, you could be at risk for contracting COVID-19 from them.
“This makes reducing smoking and secondhand smoke a key opportunity for intervention in the effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve in San Antonio and beyond,” Dr. Svatek said.
Reason #3 to Thank a Smoker for Not Smoking Indoors: Apartment or Condo Tenants
By volunteering to not smoke indoors, you can protect your neighbors.
In apartments and condos, neighbors share air with everyone in the building. Secondhand smoke can travel via elevators, stairwells, ventilation shafts and wall openings, such as electrical outlets.
Much of San Antonio – restaurants, bars, offices and public housing – is already smoke-free.
However, there is no smoke-free policy that prevents smoking in privately owned apartments, condominiums and other multifamily dwellings. Residents in these buildings have no choice about breathing secondhand smoke if their neighbor smokes.
“There is no smoke-free apartment or condominium in a building that allows smoking,” said Dr. Miller, professor emeritus and leader of the Hoffman TILT Program. “When people sign papers to rent or purchase an apartment or condominium, they should be notified in writing whether smoking is allowed in the building. You don’t want to learn later that your neighbors smoke indoors.”
Mil Gracias (A Thousand Thanks) Again!
Stopping smoking is the best way to avoid serious health complications.
If you’re not ready, you still have power to protect others’ health by not smoking indoors.
“By voluntarily not smoking indoors, you deserve our congratulations,” Dr. Ramirez said. “You are actively creating a healthier environment for your family, friends and neighbors. ¡Mil gracias!”
Learn more about the Mil Gracias for Not Smoking Indoors campaign!
The “Mil Gracias for Not Smoking Indoors” campaign is led by UT Health San Antonio thanks to a collaboration of health experts: Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! and chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio; Dr. Claudia Miller, allergist/immunologist and professor emeritus at UT Health San Antonio; and Dr. Mandie Svatek, associate professor of pediatrics in the Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. Learn more at https://salud-america.org/milgracias/.