Many people would express sympathy if you got sick from being exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke. They would understand the unfairness of having your health impacted by someone else’s smoke.
But if you get sick from breathing in equally toxic wood smoke (which the air is often thick with on any given winter’s night), people might be puzzled or unsupportive at best; and dismissive at worst.
We are all at risk
We know that children who are exposed to their parents’ cigarette smoke won’t necessarily get sick, but we understand that it increases their risk of ill health. In BC we even have regulations to prevent smoking in cars when kids are present to try and reduce children’s risk of exposure to harmful smoke.
Yet adults and children who get sick from wood smoke are often labelled as being “so sensitive”. People suggest they move to somewhere with cleaner air–as if leaving one’s home, neighbourhood or community is easy to do or to afford (or fair).
They ignore the reality that everyone’s health is at greater risk when they breathe in wood smoke.
All smoke is unhealthy. All of us are at risk. Some just get sick sooner than others or in different ways.
Think before you speak
And when someone is having an asthma attack on a smoky winter’s eve, or their 2nd round of bronchitis that winter, or an allergic reaction to smoke, perhaps it is not the best time to pronounce your love of wood heat.