MY VIEW: Smoke-free bars offer freedom from carcinogens
by: David Plechl, Chez Jose manager Teresa Giuffre says the restaurant-bar has had positive feedback since making the switch to smoke-free.

Today, the Fourth of July, I'm celebrating my right to breathe clean air. I invite you to join me.

I've been a bar and restaurant employee for 15 years and have had plenty of firsthand experience with secondhand smoke. I've worked in smoky places in the past, but today I'm employed at Chez Jose Mexican Cafe, which recently went smoke-free.

Chez Jose allowed smoking in its bar for 14 years before voluntarily becoming smoke-free. Although the bar is separated from the restaurant by a half-wall divider, the smoke drifted throughout the establishment, clinging to clothing and filling the lungs of everyone around.

The secondhand smoke that plagued the air was more than just stinky; it was toxic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke contains more than 60 cancer-causing chemicals, including formaldehyde, cyanide, carbon monoxide and arsenic.

A recent Oregon study conducted by the American Cancer Society revealed that the air pollution levels in smoky bars are six times higher than in smoke-free bars. And the levels of unhealthy air were found to be three times the air-quality standards considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

With that said, it's easy to see how just 30 minutes of exposure can damage a nonsmoker's heart and lungs. And what's even worse is that those who frequent smoky bars and the employees of these establishments face up to 50 times more cancer-causing toxins than on highways clogged with diesel trucks at rush hour.

These statistics about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke are quite alarming - especially because more than 80 percent of Oregonians do not smoke. So why do nonsmokers choose to subject themselves to other people's smoke?

This Independence Day, free yourself from the dangers of secondhand smoke by choosing to support smoke-free establishments. And don't be afraid to exercise your freedom of speech and voice your opinion about this issue. One of the primary reasons our bar went smoke-free is because our customers told us that's what they wanted. We were a little uncertain about making the change at first, but it turns out we've received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback since then.

Customer demand for smoke-free establishments continues to grow and, with it, so does the list of bars and restaurant-bar combos that no longer allow smoking. If you don't know which bars are smoke-free, rest assured there are plenty in our area. Just visit Chez Jose and more than 200 other local smoke-free establishments are listed there. So quit letting other people's smoke keep you from enjoying a fun night out.

Again, as you celebrate your freedoms this Fourth of July, join me in choosing to celebrate smoke-free. Because everyone has the right to breathe clean air.

Teresa Giuffre is general manager of Chez Jose Mexican Cafe, 2200 N.E. Broadway.

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