Marin Voice: There are COVID-19 risks associated with secondhand smoke – Marin Independent Journal

A recent ban on all flavored tobacco and vaping cartridges by several jurisdictions within Marin County has been viewed as a significant step forward in the fight against the tobacco industries’ efforts to addict a new generation of youth.

This legislation will undoubtedly protect the youth in our community and the level of care and compassion observed by our local elected officials has been impressive.

With that being said, as COVID-19 forces more people to work from home, many Marin residents living in multi-unit housing are now faced with the challenge of growing rates of involuntary secondhand smoke incursion within their home.

Prior to COVID-19, individuals spent nearly 60% of their time in the home and that percent has grown as children continue with remote learning. Recent studies have demonstrated increasing rates of smoking, drinking and vaping in quarantine, threatening the health of many individuals, particularly among our low-income residents and children.

The surgeon general has declared that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can have an immediate harmful effect, interfering with the normal functioning of the heart and increasing the risk of heart attacks. Further, children who are consistently exposed to secondhand smoke are especially susceptible to developing asthma, and lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia or bronchitis.

Involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke as well as smoking or vaping tobacco or cannabis is known to worsen the effects of COVID-19, further weakening the lungs and depleting the T-cells (a major contributor to fighting disease processes) in the immune system. Moreover, individuals who are exposed to smoking or vaping unnecessarily are much more likely to experience worsening symptoms and side effects of coronavirus that have the ability to be fatal.

Experts concur that secondhand smoke can linger in the air for up to an hour or more and has the ability to transport the novel coronavirus 3-5 times farther, via microscopic droplets of water vapor exhaled from the lungs. This leaves multi-unit housing residents particularly susceptible to involuntary secondhand smoke-exposure since nearly 60% of the air in a unit can come from an adjoining unit.

Low-income and minority communities in Marin County stand to bear the brunt of rising rates of secondhand smoke exposure due to consistently high rates of tenancy within multi-unit housing. Many of these individuals are not afforded the opportunity to work from home, vastly exacerbating their vulnerability to COVID; combined with increasing rates of secondhand smoke exposure has created an opportunity for elected officials to promote smoke-free legislation in all multi-unit housing.

As a registered nurse at UCSF Medical Center and a current graduate of the health policy program at UCSF School of Nursing, I have had the opportunity to intern at the Marin County Tobacco Related Disease Control Program for the last five months.

In congruence with local tobacco policy experts and the Smoke-Free Marin Coalition, a thorough review of the counties smoke-free ordinances shows that seven of the twelve jurisdictions in Marin provide 100% protection. However, five jurisdictions continue to have an old loophole that currently permits smoking in multi-unit housing residences. These jurisdictions include Corte Madera, Larkspur, Fairfax and Sausalito. It also includes county unincorporated areas Greenbrae and Strawberry, as well as parts of Novato, San Rafael and West Marin.

Elected officials of these jurisdictions have been presented with the opportunity to implement a cost-free prevention method by updating and amending their smoke-free housing ordinances. The Smoke-free Marin Coalitions has voiced their support and are ready to promote these efforts.

As it stands now, marketers are engaging in misleading campaigns to promote the use of tobacco and cannabis products as healthy alternatives to alleviate the stress that COVID-19 has brought under quarantine.

For those who still smoke or vape and would like to consider giving it a break, you can get help at smokefreemarin.com

Kiersten Price, of San Francisco, is a UCSF Medical Center charge nurse.

 

 

 

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