TO THE EDITOR:
The May 29 column by Meredith Shutt paints smoking as a rewarding act. She implies that because the economic history of North Carolina is connected to tobacco, we are beholden to that despite overwhelming evidence of its harms. I respond as someone who has worked in healthcare and whose father died from a tobacco-related disease.
Smoking is an addiction. Evidence shows nearly 70 percent of smokers in this country want to quit. Secondhand smoke exposure causes nearly 34,000 deaths due to heart disease and 7,300 deaths due to lung cancer each year in the U.S. No level of secondhand smoke exposure is risk free.
The UNC Smoke-Free expansion and the Orange County Smoke-Free Public Places Rule are policies to protect the health of all Orange County residents. We can’t deny that tobacco is part of this state’s history. But given what we know about the health effects of smoking and the number of people who want to quit, do we really want to take no action? I’m grateful to be attending an institution and living in a county that is prioritizing the health of all.