Monday, August 07, 2006

Another Anti-Smoking Group Suggests Smoking Around Children Should Be Considered Child Abuse

According to an article on the KMOV (St. Louis) website, a local anti-smoking group has suggested to the public that smoking around children be considered a form of child abuse.

According to the article, Pat Lindsey, director of the St. Louis University Tobacco Prevention Center, stated about the problem of parents smoking around children: "All we can do right now is tell parents what they're exposing their kids to and hope they do the right thing. I think the day will come when this will become child abuse."

The Rest of the Story

It doesn't become child abuse. It either is or it isn't. And if it isn't, then we in tobacco control should stop trying to turn smokers into child abusers.

It isn't. Child abuse entails harm and smoking around a child entails risk. And we've got to learn to stop equating one with the other.

You can't even make a case for probable harm. In most cases, children exposed to secondhand smoke from a parent smoking around them will not be harmed. Their risk of ear infections and respiratory problems will certainly increase, but there is no harm in most situations.

Statements like this suggest to me that anti-smoking groups are not merely lamenting the fact that they cannot have parents arrested or threatened with removal of children from the home if they smoke around them, but that they are actively trying to change social norms so that they can treat smokers as child abusers.

This story is an important one, because it demonstrates two things. First, it is not just an isolated one or two anti-smoking activists who are trying to make smoking around children a crime for which children could potentially be taken away from the parent. It is now a number of anti-smoking groups.

Second, this is not just a one-time errant thought that popped up. This is becoming an increasing trend in anti-smoking thinking.

The ultimate irony of the whole situation? Lindsey laments that all her group can do is inform parents of the components of secondhand smoke so they'll know what they're exposing their children to. But then she apparently goes on to misinform them about what's in the secondhand smoke. So what she has the appearance of saying is that we need to deceive parents into thinking the secondhand smoke is more hazardous than the science supports in order to get them not to smoke around their kids. The ends - protecting kids - apparently justifies the means - lying to parents.

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