Monday, May 01, 2006

Anti-Smoking Advocate Pushing to Make Smoking Around Kids a Form of Child Abuse

According to a news article posted last Thursday on the web site of Portland Oregon's ABC affiliate - KATU - a Washington State anti-smoking advocate who was behind the state's initiative that banned smoking in bars and restaurants is now calling for making smoking around kids a form of child abuse.

According to the article, entitled "Doctor Pushes to Make Smoking An Act of Child Abuse," Dr. Chris Covert-Bowlds, a physician who heads an anti-smoking coalition (Tobacco Free Whatcom County), is active with the American Lung Association of Washington, and who played a major role in the Washington statewide ban on smoking in workplaces, including bars and restaurants, "is a member of the informal, unorganized and quiet movement toward making it a criminal act to smoke around kids."

According to the article: "The physician is the father of Washington's new sweeping anti-smoking law for public places. He believes protecting children from smoking parents is next."

The article quotes Dr. Covert-Bowlds as stating: "I think eventually there will be legislation to say that exposing kids to smoke in your own home is not right."

The Rest of the Story

And removing children from their parents who smoke in the home would benefit these kids exactly how?

Frankly, this is one of the most disturbing things I have seen occur in the anti-smoking movement in a long time. Equating smoking around children with child abuse would be the most devastating and damaging thing that could possibly be done to these children - far worse than the exposure to the secondhand smoke itself.

It's one thing to be at an increased risk of developing an upper respiratory infection, middle ear infection, or asthma, but quite another to be seized from the custody of your loving parents.

Classifying smoking around kids as a form of child abuse would open the door to placing these children under the scrutiny of child protection services, and ultimately, to removing them from the custody of their parent or parents who smoke in their presence.

And that would be a complete disaster; it would be a true tragedy for these children. I can't think of anything that could possibly be worse for the health and welfare of these kids.

While I wholeheartedly agree that children should be protected from secondhand smoke exposure, tearing them away from their families is not a reasonable means to achieve this desired end.

Moreover, making smoking around children a criminal offense opens the door to making all kinds of parental behavior criminal offenses. Should parents go to jail because they fail to put sunscreen on their kid and the child gets a sunburn? Should parents be charged with a crime if they are caught eating at Burger King and feeding their kids greasy french fries? Should it be a crime to let your kid watch television all day and not get any physical activity? Should parents be sent to jail when their kids are admitted to the hospital for treatment of lead poisoning that they obtained by eating peeling paint chips?

Criminalizing smoking in the home is an unwarranted intrusion into privacy as well as parental autonomy. It has no place in our free society.

And anti-smoking advocates and groups that are pushing to criminalize smoking around kids in the home are threatening to destroy any respect that this country has for privacy rights. There is something here a lot more important than health that is at stake.

Privacy and autonomy are not all that anti-smoking advocates and groups which support making smoking around children a form of child abuse are threatening to destroy. They are also threatening to destroy the lives of these children. It is shameful that they propose to do this in the name of helping these kids in any way.

The rest of the story here is that the anti-smoking movement is completely losing sight of its means because of its overwhelming and unchecked zeal to achieve its desired ends. Sure, protecting kids from secondhand smoke is an important goal, but to do so by removing kids from their parents or by making their parents criminals is not the way to go about it.

I well recognize that "protecting kids" is now supposed to justify everything the anti-smoking movement does, but this is getting ridiculous. When these kids are removed from their parents to live in foster homes, what are we going to tell them: "It's for your own good?"

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