Teen group advocates public smoking ban
ASHEVILLE - More than two-thirds of Buncombe County's recreational facilities are smoke-free, according to a recent study - but that is not good enough for some local teen-agers.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Family Medicine conducted a statewide survey of the environmental tobacco smoke policies in recreational areas, such as shopping malls, airports, bowling alleys, skating rinks and other indoor entertainment facilities. Six of the eight Buncombe County businesses that responded had policies restricting smoking inside the building. Five businesses prohibited it completely, but two had no limitations on smoking inside the building.
Although secondhand smoke in public places usually isn't a major health problem for most people, it can make people with asthma miserable, according to Clarke McIntosh, pediatric pulmontologist at Graham Children's Center. Asthma sufferers sometimes continue to have asthma attacks long after leaving a smoking environment.
"My chest is really tight, and it's hard to breath," said Asheville Middle School student Hope Mosley as she talked about her problems with secondhand smoke. "Maybe they should smoke outside instead."
Several teen-agers gathered at the Asheville Mall Thursday to discuss the study and to say that they think it is time for all public places to ban smoking - including Asheville High School.
"You shouldn't have to be locked up in the house because you're afraid of smoke," said Asheville High School student Tony Mosley, who has asthma. "It's like breathing in a bag. You can't really get any oxygen."
Petitions calling for Asheville High School's campus to be tobacco-free are circulating across the school. Supporters say it is time for the school to prohibit smoking anywhere at the school, including sporting events.
"It cuts back from the enjoyment of the game," said Asheville High student Nathalie Davis. "It also affects young children and gives them a bad example."
The petitions were developed by students earlier this year. Davis said students will continue circulating petitions throughout the summer.
The school currently allows smoking by faculty and staff when school is not in session. The policy also allows smoking at outdoor sporting events.
Other students said they are particularly concerned with having smoke-free areas during the summer.
"School's almost out, and we need a place to go," Erwin High School student Jamie Borowski said. "My friends and I at Erwin High School want and deserve clean air."
Although several residents believe it is time for smoking to be banned, there are plenty of others who think smokers have the right to smoke wherever they please.
"If you smoke, I think you've got the right to smoke in public," said 20-year-old Jeremy Debruhl. "I don't think they've got the right to take that away."
Smoking policies vary across the state, according to the survey results. Of the 245 sites participating in the study, 70 percent of business managers/owners agreed exposure to environmental tobacco smoke was a public health problem. More than 80 percent of the sites have some sort of environmental smoking restriction.