Dr. Hayes-Bohanan's Smoke-Free Zone
May 30, 2009

Full disclosure: My doctorate is in geography, not medicine.

Ex-smokers are said to be the most obnoxious foes of smoking. I'm not an ex-smoker, but I am an ex-relative of several smokers. That is, some wonderful grandparents, aunts, and uncles who should still be alive - they ate well and exercised - are dead. As a result, I have become pretty obnoxious about the legalized drug pushers known as the tobacco industry.

Nationally, the proportion of teenagers who smoke is said to be decreasing, but I do not see any evidence of it among the young adults I teach at the college level. An amazing number of them are already hooked. I cannot help but feel that the good I might be doing by furthering their education with regard to pollution and other environmental risks will be more than offset by their continued use of tobacco. This page is for them, and for anyone else who might be looking for help in quitting or reasons not to start.

Besides the well-known health risks, cigarettes present an environmental hazard: the butts are not biodegradable, though many smokers act as if they are. During beach cleanups in several locations, I have removed literally thousands of butts from otherwise beautiful shorelines. The reason: a butt discarded on the ground will remain there until the next time flowing water moves it a bit closer to a stream, and perhaps ultimately to the sea. Littering is a crime, but people who would never dream of throwing a paper bag out the window routinely throw butts on the ground. (See a special note about butts below.)

In a brief article , Dutch diplomat Dr. Michel van Hulten explains the more acute environmental and social problems created by the tobacco trade in developing countries - both in terms of production and consumption.

Don't let Smoking take Away Your Freedom
Award-winning anti-tobacco poster
© Nedda Angelina Shishegad
Used by permission
Please visit Nedda's gallery

Hong Kong Anti-Smoking Poster   If someone were loose in Boston, killing ten or twenty people every day, the city would be a virtual police state. Neighborhoods would be patrolled, people would be locking their doors, and nobody would venture out in the evenings. Such a killer is loose, of course, but since it is a well-funded industry with tremendous economic and political clout, it operates with impunity.

The poster to the left appeared in Hong Kong as part of the effort to combat the international expansion of the tobacco industry. Learn more from The Connection .

I was once in a store with my then-3-year-old daughter when she reached for a shiny, spinning cigarette display on the counter. The advertising is for kids, pure and simple. Something has to be done. Of course, the youngest legal target of cigarette marketing is college-aged young adults, and the efforts seem to be working, according to a JAMA study .


Because I am no expert in smoking cessation or the tobacco industry, I recommend the following expert web sites.

Many reasons to quit
This site provides many reasons to quit and information about how the tobacco industry manipulates youth. It includes a grim list of celebrities killed by tobacco.
A quitting community
I learned about this online community in a December 2003 report on NPR's Morning Edition. Tools on the site help users to calculate how much they have been smoking and how much they could save by quitting. Most important, thousands of fellow quitters offer support. Because the community is so big, smokers can find people at any time of day and who share similar interests and obstacles. (For example, writers who use cigarettes to get through writer's block can find other people going through the same thing.)
About.com (formerly Mining Company) is known as the "Human Internet:" it is similar to Yahoo, but the searches under each subject are managed by an individual expert for that subject. This one of the most compehensive guides available for web pages about smoking.
Some activists are getting tired of Big Tobacco having all of the clever ads for kids. The Foundation for a Smokefree America has produced some very good spoofs and other materials on this site.
Action on Smoking and Health provides news and links related to smoking and nonsmokers' rights, smoking statistics, quitting smoking, and smoking risks. The ASH web site also has the Ann Landers article that explains how the benefits of quitting begin in just twenty minutes !
One evening, I was parked in my car while my wife went into a convenience store. A woman drove into the spot next to mine. Her hair was long and blonde, but here hair and skin were so damaged that even in the dim light, I said to myself: "heavy smoker." Then, with my car door closed, I was overwhelmed by the odor of cigarette smoke oozing from her car. She was not even smoking at the time! Definitely not glamorous!

Each year, many tobacco addicts quit for just one day on the Great American Smokeout (GAS), and many of these kick the habit for good. This site from the American Cancer Society includes annual information about GAS and more general information about the many forms of cancer that can be caused by tobacco.

Smoking is becoming less common in the United States, but it is becoming more common in American movies. Some activists and even Hollywood producer Rob Reiner are starting to put pressure on the industry. It is not possible or desirable to remove all smoking from movies, but the placement is often gratuitous, and obviously related to incentives provided by the tobacco-pushing companies. I first learned of this movement on the March 27 edition of the radio program Here and Now
McADOC (Media Campaign Addressing Drugs on Campus) PEN is the Bridgewater State College peer education program focused on alcohol, drugs and other health issues. Visit its web site to get involved if you are at BSC, or for ideas you can use at your own campus if you are not.

The cigarette butt issue mentioned above is one of my pet peeves, and I frequently confront people who are doing it. One such encounter gives me encouragement. Long after I had forgotten the particular incident, a student (whom I had not known at the time), told me that he had quit smoking COLD TURKEY when I scolded him for throwing a butt on the ground. He told me that at that moment he realized it was a stupid thing to do, and then thought he should just stop smoking altogether.

So blame him for this web page: he gives me confidence that some people who read it might do so at just the right moment in their lives, and do something about it. Also blame the students who tell me about their efforts to quit. It makes me think that others are interested in doing so.

I know it is not easy.

Comments welcome: jhayesboh@bridgew.edu
Back to James Hayes-Bohanan's Environmental Geography page.

Dr. Hayes-Bohanan is Associate Professor of geography at Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He is not a physician. This page is based on informal research, personal experience, and an abiding interest in the health and well-being of his friends and students.

Some who know me might be wondering, "what business does this overweight guy have talking to me about health?" Fair question, though nobody has asked me directly. Beginning in February 2004, I began to take this question seriously, and completely eliminated softdrinks, while drastically cutting desserts, eggs, and dairy. I have increased fiber, protein, and exercise. Over a six-month period, the results have been gradual but measurable, so the changes are permanent. If I drop another clothing size (I've already dropped one size), perhaps I'll make another web page about that! Meanwhile, I can only refer you to Supersize Me .

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