I use public transportation to travel to and from my service. While there are many positives to traveling via public transportation such as reduced air pollution, increased physical exercise, saving money and more, there are also negatives. As you can tell from the title of this post, the main negative I have recently become concerned with is secondhand smoke.
Up until this point I have been satisfied with my efforts to avoid smokers. If someone is smoking at the bus stop, I keep my distance so that I don’t breathe in the smoke. In addition, I time my trips so that I am able to wait on the bus where smoking is prohibited rather than outside where it is allowed. Now I have realized that these two tactics are not enough.
The tactics I mentioned above have resulted in me breathing in smoke when I am at the train station transferring from bus to train or vice versa. As I exit the bus, often times a person walking in front of me lights a cigarette and with the wrong wind gust avoiding the smoke is nearly impossible. Also, although smoking is not allowed on the train platform, smokers usually congregate near the steps. I usually hold my breathe as I walk past, but this never works. I cannot fully avoid secondhand smoke, and there have been times when I have been said to smell like cigarette smoke or worse.
What can I do?
Solution 1: Request to change my hours so that I can ride a bus that takes me to a train station where fewer passengers smoke. Unlike the train station I go to now, the new station would be in a wealthier part of town.
A pitfall to this solution is I am avoiding a bigger issue. I may not be the only passenger who wants to avoid secondhand smoke, and this solution does nothing for other passengers. I am lucky or shall I say privileged to have access to a different bus that will take me to a train station where passengers may come from a more privileged background that includes greater socioeconomic status mobility, increased health awareness, and overall less exposure to systems of oppression and the resulting chronic stress.
Solution 2: Improve my breath holding skills.
Solution 3: Advocate for more advertising on buses, trains, and platforms about the dangers of smoking. The goal is to increase passenger’s awareness of the harms of smoking. Think of the TV advertisements commonly seen on MTV that make not smoking seem cool.
I commonly see advertisements for discount cellphone retailers, technical colleges, and even cancer treatment centers, but I rarely see advertisement raising awareness about an issue, and have never seen an advertisement about the dangers of smoking.
A pitfall to this solution is that I am turning smoking into the issue, when the true issue is that I, and possibly other passengers, want to be able to use public transportation without inhaling secondhand smoke.
Is there a way to co-exist? My health is at risk, and I can’t afford all that comes with having a car.