Campaign For Change: One East Texan's Battle Against Secondhand Smoke

Several of you have given us your take on Tyler's proposal to ban smoking in public buildings. The key concern for those in favor of the ban is the worry about exposure to second-hand smoke. KLTV met with one East Texan who says he never touched a cigarette, but is now battling two deadly diseases.

44 year old John Buffington of Tyler never smoked a day in his life, but his body is battling the effects of simply being around it.

"Everybody smoked. In that period it was just a common thing that everyone did," said John. "I worked for an office here in town in the accounting department. Small office in the back of a building. There were four employees in a small room, two of the others were chain smokers."

John said the smoke was constant. Six years in that cubicle and now his body is paying the price. At 39, he had a massive heart attack requiring emergency bypass surgery, and discovered he had Specific Chronic Heart Disease.

"There is connections to secondhand smoke and heart attacks. I feel that probably had a factor in that to," said John.

But that wasn't all. In 2006 John started having respiratory problems.

"The ER doctor came around and told me my lungs are severely scarred and they are both collapsed in the lower portions. He asked, 'How long have you smoked?' I said, 'I have never smoked a day in my life.' He said, 'The scarring that we see in your lungs is very typical for a smoker'."

Dr. Scroggins in Tyler has been John's physician for years. He agreed that John's exposure to smoke contributed to his abnormal x-rays and said that type of exposure can cause severe damage.

"It's not much different than smoking. It is just about the same. If you are in a closed environment and being exposed to cigarettes on a daily basis," Dr. Scroggins said.

John's battle is constant. He sleeps with a breathing machine every night, takes 18 pills a day and said he wants to use his story to take action.

"The dangers of secondhand smoke are just very real, they are out there," said John. "It affects everyone. You, me ... everyone."

Since sharing his story at the public hearing Tuesday night, John has been contacted to share his story in Austin and possibly in Washington D.C. We will continue to follow his story as he campaigns for change.

Danielle Capper, Reporting.