Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dear Smoker, Please don't kill me

I am taking on a controversy here.  Some of you may smoke and some smokers are very upset by people saying what I'm about to say.  Yet this happens all the time now, and while I realize I have an extreme situation and that it's not truly the smoker's fault, smoke bothers many people to a lesser extent and therefore for people like me as well as most non-smoker's, at least please think about this.

The following is a letter, edited for privacy only, my dr. wrote to help me handle a situation in which an exposure to incense caused me to have a bad attack and the people who handled it were not very supportive with an attitude of "one person shouldn't get to change everything".  The person who witnessed the asthma attack was the only one who got it and I scared that person as the attack was bad.

Dear Jennifer,This letter is to confirm that I have diagnosed you with Chemical Sensitivites and Asthma, which may result in potentially life-threatening bronchospasm when exposed to chemicals such as cleaners, air freshners, incense, tobacco smoke, and strong perfumes. While you are able to take steps to avoid these, it is impossible to control those around you. Please take precautions, including having a working inhaler with you, and continue to immediately leave situations where exposure is occuring.  Dr. Body

It took a while to process that.  I'm well aware I have severe asthma, and the last few days would have confirmed that if I didn't know it; ever since my ER visit I've reacted to everything.  But the phrase "life-threatening" had not occurred to me.  You'd better believe an inhaler is on my person at all times pretty much (not when sleeping) all the time now.  Which is good since I seem to need a puff every few hours.  I knew it was bad; I did not comprehend completely until this HOW bad.  Which is good because it was another push toward letting Dr. Body send me to Dr. Everything Allergy and Asthma (Dr. EAA).  

Today I wsa on a ferry boat.  It was marked no smoking everywhere and the instructions clearly state this includes in your car.  I was in my car with the sunroof open and windows down, reading, when I smelled ciagrette smoke.  I rapidly sealed my car and searched.  A man a few cars back (and I think a woman with him) were half in and half out of the car smoking.  When i walked past to be sure they had left the cigarettes out in plain sight.  I tried hard to find a ferry worker to tell them, and nobody was accessible.  So I just put up with it.

The thing is that cigarretes are the hardest thing to avoid of anything because smokers tend to gather in doorways.  I am severely allergic to that smoke but if I want to do something as simple as buy food I generally have to hold my breath the best I can, use an inhaler, and hope for the best.  Life feels like a minefield right now.  Sometimes I know something will make me react.  Sometimes I am surprised.  Regardless it's a scary world and it is smokers who tend to have the least courtesy and cause the greatest trouble (smoke happens to be my worst trigger I think, be it cigarette, wood burner, etc.)  It makes me wonder if smokers realize exactly what risk some people are at from their behaviors.  And I suspect no. So, here's the word of experience:  I recognize adults have the right to smoke.  I also recognize my own right to breathe.  So, please, please don't risk my life by smoking where I cannot avoid you or by sneaking a smoke where it is prohibited.  If you smoke in a nonsmoking hotel room I can no longer stay there.  If you smoke too close to my car, even if I manage to seal everything that smoke can bother me for an hour.  If you smoke directly in front of me while talking to me I will tend to run away.  

There are other areas that are the same.  I haven't been to a mall in months, partly because of fear of perfume counters, and partly because I hate malls.  I can't go into cleaning or laundry product aisles and thank God for those stores that seperate the kinds I can use although mainly I have to use soap nuts and vinegar and baking soda.  

I don't want to control you, or anyone else who may cause an attack.  I HATE with a passion asking pt's to not smoke in front of me.  But, you could kill me.  Did you know that?  I didn't.  And until mowed grass put me in the emergency room I had trouble believing it.  Now, I believe....


Michal Ann said...

So sorry you have this new sensitivity. My comments haven't been going through even as anonymous...

Anonymous said...

I smoke. I also understand and agree with EVERYTHING you said.

At the college where I teach, smokers used to gather by the doorways, just as you said. Our campus is now smoke free and I have NO problem with that. Even when I am off campus, I am very careful not to smoke "on" anyone.

I get it. And honestly? If I were with you on that ferry boat, I would have walked over to the car and told them to knock it off. I'd say 99% of the time, smokers know when they are smoking in a non-smoking area and trying to get away with it. You, nor anyone there, should NOT have to just put up with it!

Oh Jen, you'd hate me! I love, love to wear perfume and also to douse my house with all sorts of good smelling stuff (by the way, I NEVER smoke in my house - you'd be safe inside!)
Well, you'd be safe from cigarette smoke, but not from the cleaning/smelly stuff! Ugh!

I had a BF years ago (when I had a dog) who was allergic to dog dander. He ended up breaking out in a rash and quickly leaving. Until then I had NO idea about allergy sensitivities.

Sooo... I love this post and I will use it to educate people as I can/when I can. Like I said, I do smoke but I try to be a VERY careful and conscientious smoker if there us such a thing.

Bottom line, I would be your advocate. You have a right to breathe.

Have FUN on vaca!

Anonymous said...

p.s. That was me (B.) above.

Just Me said...


i would not hate you. i have no shift key at all on this computer so you'll hate my writing, but i wouldn't hate you. i don't hate those who enjoy the things i'm allergic to. 9 months ago i loved candles. the ones i loved the most my mother claimed were really strong; they were air fresheners as well. i used plug in air fresheners/neutralizers all the time. i never thought of doing otherwise. if a patient smoked i let them. i never thought otherwise.

i respect you and others who are sensitive to people like me. Dr. Body told me about someone who had to have all the soap in a government building changed because of chemical sensitivity. it's another type of disability, but one that is harder for me to swallow because it affects other people more. (writing this i realize that years ago i thought my illness affected others much more than it does now so maybe that's not such a great example). But I also remember a professor in grad school making a huge thing of "do not wear perfume near me or it will kill me. literally. this includes in the department, classes or the building i teach in". We thought she was a bit extreme. now i fully understand. like me she developed the allergy suddenly and extremely. i wish i hadn't laughed....