This is the eighth of nine segments which Univision Seattle, KUNS Channel 51, is proudly airing on Wednesdays at 6pm and 11pm. This segment, in partnership with Public Health, focuses on informing the public on the harmful effects that second and third hand smoking have on pets. Learn more about RASKC’s stories on Univision.
Anchor and Reporter: Jaime Mendez
Spokespeople: Lluvia Ellison-Morales, RASKC Administrator and Mariel Torres, CDIP Manager for Public Health
JM: Even though the number of people who smoke is diminishing, second and third hand smoke which affects hundreds of thousands of people also affecting pets, a subject that is rarely discussed. It is unknown the number of pets that die every year due to second hand smoke, but veterinarians are aware thanks to the research and consultation visits that inhalation of smoke does cause severe problems for domestic animals. We have Lluvia Ellison-Morales, manager of Community Relations of Regional Animal Services of King County and we have Mariel Torres, spokesperson for King County’s Public Health. Welcome to you both. It’s true, one doesn’t always think about pets and how they are affected by a lot of things especially when it comes to smoking. Tell us, how does smoking affect pets Lluvia?
LEM: We are here because we know that smoking is not good for our health, but it also affects the people around, especially pets. People tend forget that pets because they are smaller and closer to the ground and on the carpet, that they wont be affected by smoke. But in fact, because they are on the ground and on the floor, that’s when the smoke inhalation gets to them the most and it gets stuck to their skin and fur, so this affects them.
JM: Of course, imagining people who discuss how they smell of smoke after going out, one can imagine the pet who’s skin, it’s not as if they are wearing a jacket that can easily be taken off.
LEM: Yes, and then they are grooming themselves, so this too affects them. More than anything, for dogs — we have read — they are three times more prone to getting lung cancer, and for cats, they have three times the probability of getting oral cancer.
JM: Can you explain a little more about what is second and third hand smoke?
MT: An example of second hand smoke is if I were here smoking in front of you, an example of third hand smoke in relation to a living situation is when smoke goes through the air ducts of a condo or apartment building thus exposing the residents and pets to smoke in their apartment.
JM: That’s something that hadn’t occurred to me, apartments being very closed and the air being circulated around… that’s third hand smoke.
MT: Yes, that’s correct
JM: Ok, so one of the messages being provided is for people not to smoke in front of their pets, but what other things can the public do?
MT: For starters, the first thing we are trying to support people is in quitting smoking because its in the best interest of the person’s health as well as in the pets. There’s various amount of resources, there’s phone numbers and phone apps to help them quit smoking or call our department so we can provide them the resources. The thing to remember is that pets are our allies, just like family members, they give us the motivation to quit this habit. For example, when there is that itch to want to smoke, they can take their pets out for a walk or even give their cat a big hug.
JM: Yes, great points — going out to walk with the cat, I mean maybe not the cat or it’ll run away, but yes with the dog. But some people might feel it’s too cold to go out for a walk, so they decide to go out for a drive, but the car as well is another problem.
MT: Yes, the car is similar to the living situation, if one smokes inside the car the smoke stays within the car.
JM: I’ll notice people driving while smoking with kids in the back and a pet next to them and they’ll leave the window open a bit, does this help? yes or no?
MT: They tend to think it’ll help, but it’s really about the smoke lingering [in the vehicle], regardless of the window being open.
JM: I know that you guys represent different agencies, but both are working together, where can people call/ contact if they want help.
MT: They can go visit our site, http://www.kingcounty.gov/health/tobacco and they can call our phone line.
JM: There it is 206-296-7613. And Lluvia you are with the pets, do you want to provide their phone number…
LEM: Yes, it’s 206-296-PETS
JM: PETS, there you have it, 7387 if you prefer the number over the letters. Thank you for coming to speak with us about the things that people tend to forget or not think about.