Seeing Cigarettes for What They Are: Poisons

Submitted by the Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County

You wouldn’t knowingly expose a child to poisons, would you?

With that in mind, and in recognition of “National Poison Prevention Week” (March 20-26), Christina Wilson, Executive Director of Integrated Community Planning, Inc., is drawing attention to fact that when adults smoke cigarettes, they are indeed exposing children to poison.

“Children do what they see adults doing,” said Wilson. “If a parent smokes, the odds of a child becoming a smoker increases exponentially, which is a tragedy. Smoking is a poisonous activity; it’s the leading cause of preventable death in New York.”

The poisonous nature of cigarettes goes far beyond being figurative. It is quite literal:

* According to the National Cancer Institute, tobacco smoke includes harmful chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide (used in chemical warfare), carbon monoxide (a gas emitted by car exhausts), and ammonia (also found in toilet cleaners).

These chemicals impact everyone around a smoker (particularly, children) in the form of secondhand smoke, which is a dangerous combination of the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by a smoker. Each year, an estimated 3,000 American non-smokers die from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

According to a 2006 Surgeon General’s Report, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke can also lead to lung cancer, and other illnesses. And, while secondhand smoke is bad for everyone, it is especially poisonous for babies and children, as their lungs are still developing.

“Secondhand smoke is devastating to young people,” said Wilson. “If a child’s parents smoke, the child is more likely to suffer from pneumonia and bronchitis. Also, secondhand smoke can cause youth with asthma or allergies to have more severe attacks. The only way parents can keep youngsters safe from secondhand smoke is by not exposing them to it.”

That’s why Integrated Community Planning, Inc. felt it was important to hold the grant for the Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County (TFN). The Tobacco Free Network works to establish tobacco-free outdoor areas around parks, playgrounds, businesses, and other grounds where children may be exposed to secondhand smoke. Currently over 180 municipalities in New York, including the City of Oswego, have passed regulations restricting tobacco use in outdoor recreational areas.

Funded through the New York State Department of Health Tobacco Control Program, the Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County is one of 29 community partnerships across New York State dedicated to making each community a healthier place to live, work and play.

Information about quitting smoking is available by calling the toll-free New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) and on the Quitline Web site at