Is my job killing me? I eat right, exercise regularly, rarely drink and do not smoke. However, being a bartender for the past 17 years may be contributing to my early death.
Did you know that a non-smoking bartender, like me, working an eight-hour shift in a smoky bar gets the same toxic exposure as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes? Did you know that the New York City Health Department measured the pollution levels in smoky bars and found them to be 50 times greater than inside the Holland Tunnel? Did you know that according to a 2001 study, restaurant and bar employees get lung cancer at a rate of up to three times higher than other occupations? Smoking kills ... and I don't want to die!
There are countless restaurant safety laws in place designed to protect workers; but I am not safe at my job. People blow smoke directly in my face every time I work. It lingers in the air and I am forced to breathe it in continuously. When I get home from work, my clothes and hair reek of smoke; my eyes tear; and when I work several shifts in a row I often develop an annoying dry cough.
Smokers argue about their rights. What about my rights as an employee? The argument that banning smoking would hurt the bar and restaurant business is weak. Smokers will always go to bars; however, 80 percent of Long Islanders are non-smokers. If bars were smoke-free, they'd go out, too. It has been documented in the state of California and in El Paso, TX, which have already gone smoke-free that when smoking is banned, revenues go up.
Please hear my plea. Tell your lawmakers to give me a smoke-free workplace, too!
James R. DeVito