Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It's All About Being in the Right Place

Published November 24, 2004, in The Baytown Sun

Philip Morris USA is inundating us with more of its brilliant epiphanies.

The other day on TV, the tobacco company issued the following gem: “There is no safe cigarette.”

Thank you for enlightening us, Philip Morris! I, for some reason, had been under the impression that cigarettes were completely safe. I had been up to eight packs a day. But now that your commercial has made me a better-educated consumer, I’m quitting immediately. Thanks again for the heads up.

Here’s another bombshell, this time from the Methodist Hospital Corporation. Smoking isn’t safe — even when it’s being done at a hospital. I’m still reeling from the shock. To combat this problem, the corporation is implementing a tobacco-free policy at four of its area hospitals.

Our very own San Jacinto Methodist will become smoke-free on Jan. 31. The new policy will do away with one smoking area adjacent to the hospital cafeteria and one-employee-designated smoking area. All tobacco products will be forbidden on hospital premises.

I’ve been a patient at San Jacinto Methodist, and while being ill or giving birth can cause enough stress to drive one to take up some kind of vice, I can’t see why smoking would be one of them. Hospitals are full of wonderful drugs. With all the painkillers and tranquilizers available, I just plain didn’t need tobacco or nicotine. Why destroy your lungs when you can enjoy a nice, comfy morphine buzz?

At the same time, however, I believe the smoking ban is doing a disservice to smokers who work, visit or undergo treatment at the hospital. Think about it. If you are poisoning your body with something that increases your risk of myeloid leukemia, heart disease and emphysema, as well as cancer of the lungs, oral cavity, nasal cavities, larnyx, pharnyx, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder and uterine cervix, wouldn’t you want to be at a hospital?

Now these people will be forced to smoke in their own homes, and they’ll have to drive all the way to the hospital when their lungs fall out or their esophaguses (or is it esophagi?) explode.

This reminds me of the philosophy my dad had when he was teaching my brother and me to drive. He would take us to practice on the little roads in the local cemetery. That way, if anything happened, “we’d be in the right place.”

So if smokers could have their own little space at or near a hospital, and their health began to go south, they’d at least be in the right place.

On a semi-related note, the place to have a medical emergency these days — at least if you’re a rock ‘n’ roll fan — is New York City. Why? David Lee Roth, former lead singer of Van Halen, is training to become a paramedic there. Just the other day he saved the life of a heart attack victim in the Bronx using a defibrillator.

I am intrigued by the thought of coming to after a car accident or something and staring into the face of the guy who once graced a poster that my dad made me remove from my bedroom wall when I was in eighth grade.

I guess as far as my dad was concerned, there was no safe rock star.

Deana Nall’s column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is


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