I am writing this in the sincere hope that it can lead to a productive discussion and action. I am a strong supporter of Occupy Oakland and everything we are trying to do together, but I have very severe asthma. I have come to many of the GAs and had to leave after the smoking became unbearable; it has become increasingly difficult for me to participate. Perhaps some of the people at the GA are not aware of the pain and suffering they are causing and so I hope to bring it to their attention. It all came to a head for me at Friday’s GA when we were down to 101 people, barely a quorum, and I was struggling to stay but was literally surrounded by smoke. (All types of smoke affect me not just cigarettes)
In the early days there was a clear smoking section and a nonsmoking section; it seemed to work well. As the crowds got smaller, the smoking section has seemingly merged into the non-smoking section. There is literally nowhere to go to escape the smoke. People are smoking sitting throughout the audience. People are smoking standing up at the back. And Friday night, the people presenting proposals were even smoking, blowing smoke up into the audience while one person walked through the entire audience leaving a trail of smoke in his path. Any protection from the smoke has completely evaporated.
Today, Sunday, I am still having chest pains from the smoke I was exposed to on Friday night and have decided I cannot come to today’s GA as much as I wholeheartedly support everything we are doing. As the Facilitation Committee is meeting over the holidays to consider changing the GAs, please consider how to change this situation. I listened to talk about the harm of language used by some at the GAs, and I ask you to consider the physical harm caused by smoke blown in the face of someone with damaged lungs. I have a few ideas of what could be done. For example:
- Ask people to NOT smoke on the stage
- Set up a non-smoking area for each GA depending on size and ask people to respect it
- Facilitators can announce the non-smoking area at multiple points throughout the meeting since people arrive at all different times and miss initial announcements
- Have a few signs to mark off the non-smoking area that can be displayed at each GA
I would like to put into the form of a proposal and ask anyone who has similar concerns to please send me a message so we could prepare a formal proposal for submittal at an upcoming GA. Thank you!!!