Asthma Triggers Call for Smoking Ban


An article in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine attributes the death of a Michigan waitress to an asthma attack triggered by secondhand smoke in the bar where she worked. The title of this dispassionate scientific study is "How Many Deaths Will It Take?" The authors, who say "this is the first reported acute asthma death associated with work-related ETS," conclude "this death dramatizes the need to enact legal protections for workers in the hospitality industry from secondhand smoke." That's one way of looking at it. One might also suggest this death dramatizes the need for people with asthma to take their medication, or to avoid smoky bars if they don't:

[Lead author Kenneth] Rosenman said the woman had asthma since age 2. Her asthma was poorly controlled. She had made four visits to her doctor in the year before her death for flare-ups, and had been treated in a hospital emergency department two to three times that year.

Although she had prescriptions for an assortment of drugs to prevent and treat asthma attacks, she was reported to only use them when she was having breathing difficulty.

On the evening of her death, she had no inhaler with her. When she became sick, she told the bar manager she needed to go to the hospital, then collapsed on the dance floor.

Bar patrons offered an inhaler and the woman tried to use it, but could not. Emergency response workers were unable to revive her and she died shortly thereafter.

Here is a list of asthma attack triggers provided by the University of Virginia Health System. Along with tobacco smoke, it includes pollen, mold, animal dander, dust, dust mites, cockroaches, certain foods, air pollutants, wood smoke, "strong odors and sprays such as perfumes, household cleaners, cooking fumes, paints, and varnishes," "chemicals such as coal, chalk dust, or talcum powder," "changing weather conditions, including changes in temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, and strong winds," and "chemical exposure on the job, such as occupational vapors, dust, gases, or fumes." In addition to casting doubt on the explanation for this particular woman's death, this lengthy list raises the question of why the demand for a ban focuses on just one asthma trigger. How many deaths will it take before people with asthma are protected from perfume and pets?

[Thanks to D-FENS for the tip.]