Craig Raphael's mother had a very mom-like reason for banning him from video arcades. They reeked of smoke, she said, and were bad for his health.
Craig had an un-kid-like response. Rather than sulk, the Potomac teen set out to prove her wrong by studying how one's health is affected by other people's cigarette smoke (called "passive smoking"). He hoped he could change her mind; anyway, he needed something for his school science project.
It turned out Mindy Raphael was right. "People do have decreased pulmonary [lung] function when they're around cigarette smoke," said Craig, 14.
Craig's research got lots of attention. He presented it to doctors and scientists at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology this year. Organizers said he might be the youngest researcher ever to address the group.
Craig and his allergist dad, Gordon, got 10 healthy adults to measure their lung function before, during and after spending time in restaurants and lounges -- places as smoky, if not smokier, than video arcades. The peak-flow meter he gave to each test subject is familiar to kids with breathing problems: You blow hard into it and a scale shows how well your lungs are working. Craig also gave his subjects carbon monoxide monitors, which measure cigarette smoke in the air.
After two hours, as the air got smokier, people's breathing had declined an average of 21 percent (in one case, by 40 percent). "Every one of them had a drop in lung function," said Craig, himself an asthma sufferer. "I didn't expect that."
The subjects also felt irritation in their eyes, noses and throats.
Craig submitted his study to the school science fair, which advanced him to the county level, where he won first place in the health and medicine category and honors from the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the U.S. Public Health Service.
Next, he testified before Maryland and Delaware lawmakers in support of the states' smoking bans.
One Delaware legislator pressed him: Don't you realize the ban is taking business away from restaurants and bars, and costing jobs?
"We are talking about people's health here," Craig replied. "People can always have another chance for a job, but you do not get a second chance at your health."
Defending his study has been a good experience for Craig, who wants to be a doctor. But maybe the best news is that his favorite arcade is now smoke-free: "Montgomery County passed a smoking ban last year. So now I can do what I wanted to do in the first place!"
-- Fern Shen
effects of others' smoking.