I’ve been back on land for the past few weeks. While I have a pretty nice situation overall, there has been one particular nuisance that has gotten me pretty frustrated. I am now exposed to substantially more second hand smoke as a result of living in Manhattan. This is happening because I am walking on the streets more and because smoke from my neighbors seeps into my apartment.
When I lived on the boat, the majority of my commute was on the PATH train, while now I just walk. Furthermore, on the boat I had only a few other boats and liveaboards in the marina and wasn't exposed to their smoke. In my apartment building in Manhattan, there are at least a few people who smoke every day, and due to the thin walls and windows their smoke inevitably makes it into my apartment.
I’d estimate that I am exposured to second hand smoke about 10 times a day on the street and up to 3 times a day in my apartment if I'm hanging around on a weekend day. When I walk by a smoker on the street, I usually can smell their smoke for between 5 and 30 seconds. When smoke seeps into my apartment I can usually smell it for between 1 and 3 minutes. This adds up to between 4-13 minutes a day where I am ‘passively smoking’. Studies have shown that 5 minutes of being exposed to second hand smoke has the same effect as smoking a cigarette. Therefore, just by living my life in NYC I am forced to passively smoke up to three ciggerattes per day.
While the smoking rate is much less than it was in previous decades, at 16.1% this still means that every day there are about a million people smoking approximately 11 million total cigarettes per day in NYC. With this many smokers in a confined space such as NYC, it is literally impossible to avoid running into someone smoking.
Each year 42,000 people die due to second hand smoke according to the CDC. I don't want to become part of this statistic, but have little recource to prevent this from happening to me while living in a city like New York. This is a clear cut case where one person's actions infringe on the rights of anothers. In this case, the miniority of smokers infringe on the majority's right to breathe fresh air as we do simple things like walk to work, or sleep in our apartments.
The status quo is unacceptable and must change. We must take more steps to decrease smoking, and thus reduce exposure to second hand smoke - our lives literally depend on it.
1. 11 cigarettes smoked per day by each smoker as of 2008. Source ↩