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Feedback 10/14 

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Highland needs to curb smoking

I read Dr. Megan Betteley Wang's letter (Feedback, September 23) on behalf of Highland Family Medicine residents expressing their deep sadness about violence in our community. I am grateful for her feelings and feel confident that many medical professionals and staff at Highland Hospital are of great service to friends and families left behind.

But in the US, nearly three times as many people are killed by secondhand smoke as are killed by homicides. And that's why I bring up the smoking by Highland Hospital employees on Mt. Vernon Avenue sidewalks outside the cancer center.

The surgeon general says that no level of secondhand smoke is safe and that even occasional exposure can lead to permanent harm, including death. Dr. Thomas Friedman of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene concludes that half of nonsmokers in New York City have elevated levels of nicotine in their blood primarily due to sidewalk smoke.

I am upset that Highland Hospital brings such danger into my neighborhood. I cannot bicycle, run, or walk on Mt. Vernon because of the assault by deadly secondhand smoke. I have to roll up my windows when I drive by.

Can you imagine how demoralizing it is to have an appointment at the cancer center and have to go through that smoke?

I don't know how they did it, but Strong got the smokers off of Elmwood Avenue. Many medical centers have made nonsmoking a requirement for new hires, and a few have required employees to quit smoking.

Highland Hospital should be responsible for finding a place for their smoking employees that does not harm people in the neighborhood. Perhaps they could bus employees elsewhere to smoke on breaks. Or they could create some place on the grounds where the smoke would be captured and not harm nonsmokers. Instead, Highland has installed smokers' stations along the sidewalks.

Banning smoking on the grounds of Highland Hospital and encouraging smoking in areas that assault neighbors with deadly secondhand smoke should not be an option!

I encourage Dr. Betteley Wang and the residents of Highland Park Family medicine to find a way to stop hospital employees from harming neighbors with secondhand smoke.


What do we do about guns?

I came upon the president's talk after the Oregon tragedy and stopped to watch. I was deeply saddened but not surprised by how discouraged the president is. He calls on responsible gun owners to make their beliefs heard, as opposed to what the gun lobby claims they believe.

But I think the president knows the reality, and how most gun owners, and people everywhere, will be silent and do nothing. It is all so routine, as he said. The killing is not over, as expressed in story after story.

One question for which we may not have answers, and/or do not want to face the answers because they cause major discomfort: What do we do that is relevant? That just might make a difference? And what do we do which simply dodges or serves to help distract, go for easy answers and jokes and amusement, while the awful, painful realities are not faced? Let the other guy do it. We're much too busy.


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