When people think of personal injury, they don’t usually think of cigarette smoking. However, those who smoke cigarettes could be charged with negligent behavior.
Anyone who occupies a shared space has a duty of reasonable care to the other people who use that space. If you smoke, another person might claim that you acted unreasonably and breached your duty. The duty to not smoke in certain public spaces is frequently imposed by statute or by regulation. Depending upon the circumstances, you might get sued for being the cause of another person’s lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, or bronchitis.
Recently, the Board of Governors at West Virginia University imposed a complete tobacco ban on the entire campus. A ban had previously only applied to the Health Sciences campus, on the basis that smoking went against the campus’s mission. The total ban will go into effect in July 2013. Not only would smoking or other tobacco use be prohibited in indoor places, but it would also be banned in all outdoor spaces owned or leased by the university. Currently up to 15% of West Virginia University students smoke. The university intends to spend the next year educating the community and creating a “culture of compliance” prior to the ban taking effect.
Since January, Monongalia County has enforced a ban on all indoor smoking in public places. While across the United States, 711 campuses are completely smoke free, just two West Virginia campuses — the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and the West Virginia University Health Sciences — currently fall into this category. Soon to follow will be West Virginia Northern Community College, which bans all tobacco this November.
West Virginia remains the state with the highest smoking rate. In 2010, it was estimated that 26.8% of adults 18 years old and older smoked regularly. Tobacco remains the state’s leading cause of death, killing 4,000 people each year.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm welcome the steps made by West Virginia University’s Board of Governors to change people’s attitudes and habits around tobacco. Unlike other habits, such as alcoholism, which can carry immediate, catastrophic consequences, smoking and tobacco use is often easy to ignore. Its harmful effects are often not easy to see on a day-to-day basis. However, as the statistics show, tobacco causes more deaths than car accidents, mining deaths, and other causes of death discussed on this blog.
If you or your loved one suffers from asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, or cancer, and you believe the cause to be second-hand smoke, you have the option of hiring a West Virginia personal injury attorney and filing a lawsuit. You could file the suit against the ones who smoked, and even against those that permitted smoking at the location. In order to be successful, you would need to prove that it was second-hand smoke from that particular location, and not some other source, that led to your current ailment. That might be difficult if you were exposed to several sources of harm (as people usually are), but you might be able to establish a link between your specific illness and symptoms and the tobacco use that caused them.