Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Arkansas Governor Quoted as Stating that Banning Smoking by Pregnant Women Makes Sense

According to an article on, an Arkansas publication, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has stated that the proposed idea of banning smoking by women during pregnancy makes sense. As I reported here Monday, state representative Bob Mathis has proposed the idea in an effort to protect the fetus from the harmful effects of tertiary smoking (tobacco smoke exposure by the fetus).

According to the article: "Gov. Mike Huckabee, who successfully pushed for a statewide ban on smoking in the workplace, said Tuesday a lawmaker's suggestion to prohibit women from smoking during pregnancy makes sense from a health standpoint. Rep. Bob Mathis, who voted against the statewide smoking ban, said last week that children born to smokers face the risk of long-term health problems and questioned whether it was 'constitutional' for a mother to smoke while pregnant. ... Huckabee compared a pregnant woman smoking to a mother placing a cigarette directly in a child's mouth. ... 'From a health standpoint, heck yeah, it makes sense.'"

The Rest of the Story

The fact that a state governor could publicly state that a ban on smoking during pregnancy makes sense is scary to me.

I hope that anti-smoking groups will distance themselves from this proposal as definitively and as quickly as possible. And by distance themselves, I don't mean just remain silent - I mean condemn the proposal.

Lifestyle control is not what public health is supposed to be about. Yes - smoking during pregnancy is a serious problem. Yes - we do need programs to help women who are pregnant (and those who are not) to quit smoking. Yes - it is a problem worthy of public health attention. But no - the appropriate solution to the problem is not to ban the behavior.

It's the difference between urging pregnant women to quit smoking and legislatively coercing them to do so that marks the line between public health promotion and lifestyle control.

If the problem is so disastrous that we need to ban smoking during pregnancy, then we would certainly need to also ban drinking during pregnancy, unprotected sex during pregnancy, failure to take multi-vitamins with folate during pregnancy, changing cat litter during pregnancy, and eating too much salt while pregnant.

Don't laugh - it doesn't look like these other unhealthy behaviors have escaped the Governor's notice: "'There are a lot of things pregnant women shouldn't do. That's just one of them,' Huckabee said. 'The point is, if you're going to make that against the law you're probably going to have to extend it to all the other things that are equally unhealthy for the child.'"

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