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Freedom to choose writer calls Asthma death 'death from stupidity'

Hi everyone, I just thought you might be interested in seeing this outrageous, idiotic and frankly, rather nasty, article on the Freedom to Choose website. It is a reaction to the tragic death of a young woman with asthma who worked in a smoky bar in Michigan.

This is the news story the author, Colin Grainger, is attacking.

""A woman in her late teens died from an acute asthma attack triggered by secondhand cigarette smoke shortly after arriving at her job as a waitress in a bar in Michigan, researchers reported on Friday.

They said it was the first reported case of an immediate death caused by secondhand smoke.

“She didn’t have any other possible known causes of death,” said Dr. Kenneth Rosenman, a Michigan State University professor who oversees three state public health surveillance systems. ""

Cheers everyone

6 Replies

Any death from asthma is tragic.

In this case, I am slightly puzzled as to why you find the Freedom to Choose writer's article so ""outrageous"". It's written with no-holds barred, for sure, but a good deal of the points are very valid.

If you have a chronic disease - and one that can kill you - you should surely do all you can to control it. For those of us with asthma, that should mean taking medications as prescribed and *trying* as best as you can to avoid triggers.

This poor young woman had asthma that was obviously badly uncontrolled. She had had four doctors' visits for asthma exacerbations and 2-3 emergency hospital visits with asthma within the past year. Yet it is reported that she still failed to take the medications prescribed to her. Personally speaking, there is no way I would accept a job working in an environment which I knew would be smoky every day.

Now, before you go flaming me, I am anti-smoking. Well, I am anti-people smoking around me and I have welcomed the smoking ban in this country with open arms. People are free to do as they choose in their own homes, but I do object to being subjected to second-hand smoke when I am out in public. But I think, in this case, the Freedom to Choose writer has a point - the anti-smoking lobby cannot use the death of this poor young woman as a ""champion"" for their cause.




I think you make some good points. But I personally think it is outrageous of the writer to suggest that this woman was killed by stupidity. He only does so because he is vehemently opposed to people curbing his own smoking habit from harming others and is attempting to blindside the tragedy and fact of the article to create a furore relevant to his own singular, childish and paranoid viewpoint.

The anti-smoking lobby is not, however, trying to use this woman as a flagship or icon or anything of the sort. The writer imposes this on the story himself because of his own smoking related prejudices. Nobody is 'trampling over each other to link this woman to their cause', apart from him.

And yes, it is up to people to control and medicate their illness as best they can, and yes she should have had her inhaler with her, and I certainly believe that people should not be forced to work in smoky environments.

The point, however, and it is an important point, is that people don't necessarily choose to work in pubs or bars, or as waitresses. They take what work they can from limited available opportunities. In short, people can be forced to work in unpleasant, dangerous or deadly environments by circumstance.

This young teenager was working as a waitress. And I suspect that was not her aim in life, was not her absolute choice.

So, if she had to take this job because of limited opportunities (I don't know anymore than is written in the article, but I suspect this is the case from my own experience) then she was killed not only by her own mistakes, but also by poverty and an inconsiderate smoking policy.

As for the writer's contention that the anti-smoking lobby is trying to make her a figurehead:

The person in the news story in question is Dr. Kenneth Rosenman, a Michigan State University professor who oversees three state public health surveillance systems.

And it is his medical opinion that she was killed by an asthma attack caused by her exposure to secondhand smoke.

He is not part of any anti-smoking lobby, he is just a medical professional exercising sound medical opinion. The fact that sound medical opinion is fundamental to the anti-smoking cause is secondary.


Excellent points, both.

Perhaps she'd make a good figurehead for a ""remember to take your inhaler everywhere"" or ""look after yourself properly"" campaign by an Asthma charity? It's certainly a very shocking - but effective - way of getting those particular points across.


I just wonder if this poor young woman was fully aware of the nature of the risk she was taking, as she obviously wasn't controlling her asthma well? Did anybody explain clearly to her the possible outcome if she didn't take her asthma seriously? As Neil Churchill comments in his latest blog entry, complacency about asthma is frequently encountered. Communicating a proper awareness of the risks without needlessly alarming people is tricky and nobody wants to scaremonger. But lack of awareness and/or complacency can be lethal.


There are a couple of points that come out of this that I feel are worth addressing. Take the non-compliance, it is well documented that asthmatics are not the most compliant in taking their medications, either because they don't realise that asthma really does kill or if it does ""it won't get me"" type attitude. Maybe they don't their meds cos they are being a bit of rebel or for other more psychological issues. Asthma as I have seen from the countless threads here is not ""trendy"" people think are often made to feel embarrassed when taking inhalers and many youngsters hide their condition from friends. The only way you and we are going to conquer this is to not be ashamed, I will neb where-ever and whenever I need to, if my sub cut pump needs changing I do it, but I am 39 and slightly mad so I don't care if people stare. However, once you get out your neb or inhaler out a couple of times in a public place you get used it to it and less bothered by people staring, actually I get more bothered by people wanting to know if I am OK than them staring as I feel if they bother to ask they deserve an explanation and if you are nebbing then you really are not up to explaining!

In regard to non-compliance, I have the occasional rebellion. Ok so it is small scale (all though not wise or recommended) I leave out the fosimax or the calcium, I have had 2 extremely mad moments when I randomly thought I would see if I still needed sub cut, now that was very silly not recommended and if you do so you are a silly old moo! I have always been compliant with inhalers they only take a few seconds in the morning and at night and I am scared stiff of suddenly stopping my pred, gory accounts of adrenal failure from others have persuaded me that if I am going to stage an asthma meds medication protest that is not the one to drop!

When my eldest goes out without his inhaler, he is making a conscious choice that he will not have the one thing he needs in an attack and that attack as he knows only too well could lead to death is he being stupid, forgetful or just a bit of teenager.

One of the other things I loathe is this assumption that when you end in hospital it must be because you are not taking your medication, made much worse by my odd theophyllin absorption, now I have a letter that says I am compliant (I have been through the theophyllin absorption study thing) and that is a problem my body as opposed to me being bad but you could see them thinking ""aha she did not take her theophyllin and look where it has got her"", now I don't take it at all (by agreement with my team) and we do a loading dose when I get to to A&E it has removed the problem of not being able to load until you get a level to see if it OK to do that and it also removes the ""did you take all your meds"" question.

Then there is putting your self into potentially risky situations, I guess some could say going to a football match in January is a pretty stupid thing to do, I know I am far more likely to get an attack there with all the blokes marinaded in cheap deodorant, sudden gusts of cold wind etc but I can't put my entire life on hold, so I choose to go and try to minimise the risks. I check the weather forecast and I have someone at the club who tells me what it is like in Plymouth (I have been caught out my lovely mild conditions here only to find an arctic wind blowing around Home Park), I make sure I am feeling well before I go, I now park right next to the entrance so no walks across windy car parks anymore and arriving in a bit of a state, I stop at the 1st aid post first to wave at them so they know I am in the ground and 2nd so they can make me a cup of tea during which time I stop and get my breath back before heading off to my seat, on Tuesday it also gave the Dr there a chance to make sure I really was still talking and not smurf coloured, but that might have been something to do with a wee splattette a few matches before :) I can't do more and I am not about to lock myself away in a bubble, I love my football and it is something I can still do with my kids. Last season I had a couple of scrapes but managed not to go straight from the football ground to hospital, this time I have made it home by the skin of my teeth a couple of times and ended up going to hospital from the ground twice. Both times I was fine when I got there it was just one of those sudden unpredictable things that can happen. It does not stop me being mortified that it happened and constantly apologising for it, however, I could have been out shopping with my mum or visiting a friend and the same thing might have happened who knows. Today I need to go and get Josh some new pure cotton PJ's and I have foos shopping to do (yuk) I will go a little later when it has warmed up, I will walk around tesco I refuse to resort to be pushed around the exercise is good for me, but I guess by being bloody minded I stand a higher chance of having an attack on the way around. If I feel dire I won't go I can always to it tomorrow. Its about weighing up the risks, most of the time I get it right but sometimes I will get it wrong, am I being stupid for putting myself at risk or am I just doing the right thing and trying not to let my lungs get in the way of having some kind of life.



It says that she was in her late teens, why is she then working in a bar? In a bar you serve alcohol, the drinking age in the states is 21, and if you are under that age you arent allowed to serve it, are you?

I too think that the freedom to choose writer rises some points that are true. Her death could have been prevented, but its not her fault that she has asthma. It says she is a student, works at a fast-food restaurant, AND has a second job in a bar. Since she has two jobs and studies probably means that she needs money to pay for tuition, so she probably took the best paid jobs she could get. So its not fully her choise to work there in a way. There is no smoking-ban in bars and restaurants in Michigan, so i doubt that she could get a better job in a smoke-free environment. However, it is her own fault that she didnt take her meds and bring them. Its not always in your interest to take your meds, or bring them everywhere you go when you are that age, but she should have taken responsibility and taken her meds, especially since her asthma was poorly controled.

Both articles show two extremes, someone who is extremely against smoking, and someone who is for it. People who are strongly against smoking would obviously take this chance to target the smokers and attack them to show the consequenses that second hand smoking can have. It is true, and second han smoking can not only trigger asthma, but also causes many other diseases, and this incident only proves that. But as i said, it could have been prevented. The smokers points are mostly valid as well, so I dont think that it was outrageous, or idiotic.

Personally I am strongly against smoking, and fully support the smoking ban. But in this discussion I dont want to take sides because they both have good points, but they also have some stupid points.



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