Sitnews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Compliments to Your Health #17

How Long Can You Hold Your Breath, Part 2
by Joann Flora,
Acupressure, Nutrition Counseling, Qigong


August 21, 2003
Thursday - 12:30 am

In my last article, I wrote about smoking. I took the reader through a tour of the dangers and addictive nature of smoking, and how the tobacco manufacturers would never get tobacco products past the FDA and EPA if they were new products today.

Ketchikan Sunset
by Weston Davis ©August 2003

On one of our recent warm days, I had opportunity to be in our airport. The ventilation was extremely poor; it was hot and oxygenless, and the second hand smoke was pouring out of the lounge into the snack bar area where non-smokers (some of which were children) sat trying to eat their food. The best place to get free of the smoke that day was in front of the plate glass windows where one risked second degree burns from the sun. It was not a good day at the airport.

I realize that the renovations to the second floor of the terminal building are far from over. The work on the first floor is finished and very pleasant. It is spacious, well lit, has a convenient baggage area, and nice rest rooms. I had hopes that these significant improvements would find their way upstairs and even address some of the problems unique to the second floor. While we may all expect better lighting, open space, and nice restrooms, we may not anticipate better ventilation or the elimination of smoking from the waiting area. Here's what I found out:

The ventilation system is being cleaned, not replaced or upgraded.
The lounge is being moved to a new area of the floor.
There will still be smoking permitted in the lounge.

What's wrong with this scenario? First, the present ventilation is not adequate for the existing square footage of the second floor. On really rainy days it is humid and stuffy. On very warm days, it is stifling. How can the Borough expect it to be adequate when they add more space? True, the system will be cleaner, but it is still the same size and type of system. Second, moving the lounge is just relocating the problem if the smoking persists. Unless they make it an airtight lounge or provide the lounge with its own ventilation system, why should we expect the second hand smoke to stay inside? Third, this is a public building, and even though the lounge is privately owned, it is providing a public service provided on public property. To allow smoking in the lounge tells a large segment of the population, non-smokers, that they are not welcome in this area unless they are willing to put their health at risk. And, as this is a Borough facility, the Borough is endorsing this position through it's inaction on this issue.

What is the solution? The second floor needs a small area with isolated ventilation where smokers can go and seal their fate without infringing on the health of others. If it's economically not feasible to add a smoking room at this time, perhaps a sheltered porch, protected from the weather, with heat lamps like the solariums on the ferries, could be added to the design to accommodate smokers and save non-smokers. If a large facility such as SeaTac, (not to mention all the major airports in the country), can become a no-smoking facility, why can't Ketchikan International Airport? An upgrade to the ventilation system itself would also be desirable.

Perhaps in the future, we can take the lead of some of the large hub airports who have solved this problem to everyone's satisfaction. I have been in terminals with spacious, glassed-in rooms containing isolated ventilation (big, powerful exhaust fans directly to the outside). The rooms have park-style benches, lots of live plants (which produce oxygen), running water, and soft relaxing music to soothe weary travelers who can sit inside and smoke till their next flight if they want to.

In the interim, nothing changes if nothing changes. I urge all of us who choose not to smoke to contact the Borough Manager and Borough Assembly concerning the second floor renovations. There is still time to fix this situation before the renovations are complete. The protected porch idea is entirely feasible and could be added for a very small cost compared to the isolated room concept. Smokers could be accommodated and non-smokers protected. And, those of us who would like to sit in the lounge in nice comfortable seats and have a beverage and a snack could do so without endangering our health. We would also be protecting airport employees who work there every day. Their exposure to second hand smoke is significantly greater than it is for travelers who simply pass through on their way to someplace else. The Borough is directly responsible for providing them a safe work environment.

I hope that those of us who care about our health and our public facilities will take moment to call, email, or otherwise contact the Borough Assembly about this very significant problem while there is still time to do something about it.


E-Mail Joann Flora
 E-mail Joann Flora


©Compliments To Your Health
Joann Flora 2003


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