Anna Carroll of Alexandria, Va., has emphysema because of second-hand cigarette smoke from co-workers. Worse, she can't easily travel in trains, buses or airplanes because smoke - even in non-smoking sections - makes breathing hard.
Her plight and other similar situations helped persuade Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to Friday introduce the "Public Protection From Passive Smoke Act."It would require all interstate, public transportation vehicles to certify that they do not voluntarily expose the public to passive smoke. Any carrier in violation could be fined up to $1,000.
That comes on the heels of legislation that Hatch co-sponsored last week to permanently ban smoking on all airline flights. A temporary ban on flights lasting less than two hours expires next year.
Hatch planned to introduce the new bill also last week, but delayed to allow Kennedy to introduce it with him. The delay may have inadvertently helped bring more attention to the bill - because it came just as a new study linked passive smoke to cancer of the cervix.
A study published Friday and conducted among Utah women showed those who are around heavy smokers for three hours a day have a 3.4 times greater chance of contracting cervical cancer.
In a statement submitted with his bill, Hatch said that is just one of a growing number of studies that show passive smoking is a cause of disease, including lung cancer.
"The surgeon general has estimated that the 1,000 cigarette smokers who die prematurely every day are taking 12 to 15 non-smokers with them. Up to 5,000non-smokers die prematurely each year from exposure to the cigarette smoke of others," Hatch said.
He is especially concerned about the effect of smoke in confined space on airplanes, buses and railroads. Studies have shown that merely separating smokers from non-smokers does not stop non-smokers from receiving almost as much second-hand smoke anyway.
So Hatch said when Carroll - and people like her - travel, "flight attendants would have to keep a close watch on her and provide her with supplemental oxygen because of the tobacco smoke."
Hatch said he also received a letter from Loretta M. Skewes of Michigan who said smoke was so thick on one flight that it gave her an asthma attack. "I had not suffered an attack for years, but now the allergic cycle has been restarted," she wrote.
Hatch said, "People choose to smoke, but there is no choice about breathing. We should not ban individuals from airplanes or other public conveyances simply because they cannot safely breathe the air which has been polluted by other passengers' cigarette smoke.'