An author once said, “You may only be one person to the world, but you may also be the world to one person.” This insightful statement underscores every person’s responsibility to family, friends and co-workers. Healthcare leaders have a fortunate sphere of influence touching many patients and young people. Our actions and personal health habits could serve as the accepted standard for others.
We have discussed the rate of 27 percent uninsured in Texas and the need for implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In examining the uninsured closely, we find many working Texans in the food service industry have no medical insurance and seek medical treatment in emergency departments. Another common characteristic of food service workers is they either smoke tobacco products or are routinely exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke in the workplace.
Smoking and second-hand smoke are associated with coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, preterm delivery, still birth and low birth weight. Only 29 states have 100 percent smoke-free workplace laws which eliminate smoking in all indoor workplaces including restaurants and bars. Texas is not one of the 29 states and only 36 Texas cities have smoke-free indoor workplace ordinances. Therefore, many food service workers and customers are exposed to dangerous second-hand smoke.
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 21.5 percent of adult men and 17.3 percent of adult women smoke tobacco products. For residents below the poverty level, many with no health insurance, 28.9 percent smoke.
We need to promote personal health responsibility, including smoking cessation programs, a smoke-free workplace environment, and public health policies that improve the health and well being of fellow Texans. Each of us may be the world to one person, so let’s ensure we support a smoke-free Texas in the upcoming state legislative session. The www.smokefreetexas.org website provides useful information to assist in this goal.
One person can make a difference and that person is you.