Students stay away from restaurant work to avoid secondhand smoke
Many BYU students will return home to work for the summer. Some of them will seek jobs in the high-paying restaurant industry while others will avoid working in restaurants to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
"I would never work in a restaurant in my home state of Kentucky because I do not want to be exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke circulating in restaurants effects my breathing, nauseates me, and makes me loose my appetite," said Bob Hudson, 22, a sophomore from Princeton, Kentucky majoring in English.
California, Utah, Vermont, Maine, and Oregon have already banned smoking in restaurants.
Smokers rights' groups say that restaurant workers know the dangers of secondhand smoke before they join the restaurant industry.
"If you're going to work at a restaurant or a bar, before you allow yourself to be there, you take the less then perfect conditions (such as secondhand smoke) into consideration when deciding whether or not to participate," said Dan Cracraft, President of a Utah-based smoker's rights group called Freedom of Choice.
But some anti-secondhand smoke groups say some workers do not have a choice.
"Some restaurateurs address the risk by recommending workers work somewhere else if they want to avoid secondhand smoke exposure, were it an insignificant industry, that might be practical," said Anne Naughton, Project Director for Kids Involuntarily Inhaling Secondhand Smokw. "However 11.6 million people are employed in the restaurant industry, making it one of the top three employers in the nation."
Naughton said restaurants give more people their first job than any other industry and the restaurant industry ranks particularly high in their employment of women and minorities.
The debate about the effects of secondhand smoke rages on between smoker's rights groups who say secondhand smoke is not dangerous and medical experts who disagree.
"There is no proof that secondhand smoke is a significant health risk," said Andy Ludlow, treasurer of Forces, an international smoker rights' group.
But some medical experts say there is plenty of proof.
"It (secondhand smoke) is the same as first hand smoke, the trouble is it is not done by choice," said Deana Molinari, a registered nurse and professor of community health at BYU. "Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke still take in carcinogens that smokers take in."
The American Lung Association also says that secondhand smoke is very dangerous. They report that secondhand smoke causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers each year.
Those trying to ban secondhand smoke say restaurant workers deserve the same protection as others.
"Doctors, lawyers, bankers, accounts, stockbrokers, government worker, insurance agents-nowadays almost every other profession enjoys smoke-fee workplaces. Why should restaurants be exempt?" Naughton said.
BYU students say that they are not only concerned with the health affects of secondhand smoke, but also with other negative effects.
"I hate secondhand smoke in restaurants," said Marianne Kent, 19, a sophomore from Milad, Idaho majoring in elementary education. "You go in and you come out smelling like you've been in a bar."
The American public is in favor of banning smoking in restaurants. According to a Gallup poll, 95 percent of American, smokers and nonsmokers, now believe companies should either ban smoking totally in the workplace or restrict it to separately ventilated areas.
Smokers rights' groups say banning smoking in restaurants will hurt the restaurant businesses. But Mike O'Neal, owner of O'Neals restaurant in New York City, says the smoking ban in that city has helped his business.
"If 75 percent of people don't smoke and 25 percent do, that means 75 percent are going to eat out more and 25 percent are going to eat out less," he said.
Smoking in New York City restaurants has been banned since 1995. A study by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program found that sales tax receipts rose two percent at restaurants in New York City but dropped four percent in the rest of the state, indicating that restaurants where smoking was banned actually did better than restaurants in the same state where smoking is allowed.
Students say the applaud efforts to ban smoking in restaurants.
"It will be a great day indeed when I can walk into a restaurant in Kentucky and not be bothered by secondhand smoke, but I don't think it is foreseeable in the near future," Hudson said. "However, I am grateful for the efforts that are being made in to stop second hand smoke in restaurants."