Monday, November 20, 2006

The Folly of Belmont: PART II - Proposed Policy Would Harm Children By Increasing Secondhand Smoke Exposure

The Belmont (California) City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to draft an ordinance for consideration by the Council that would ban smoking in all indoor and outdoor areas of the city with the exception of detached, single-family homes and the possible additional exception of private cars. I have already explained why this proposal is unjustified from a public health perspective and I have exposed a disturbing class inequity that the policy would create. Here, I consider the disturbing public health implications of the proposal in terms of childrens' exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Rest of the Story

If enacted as presented to the public, this ordinance would ban smoking outdoors, while allowing it inside detached, single-family homes. This means that if parents who smoke observe the law, they will smoke inside their homes instead of stepping outside to protect their children from secondhand smoke exposure. The effect of the policy, therefore, would be to increase exposure for children of smokers.

Smoking outside is precisely what we want smoking parents to do. It is not something we want to ban. The last thing in the world that we should want is to force parents to smoke inside the home, where children will be heavily exposed, rather than encouraging them to smoke outside to minimize their childrens' exposure.

While one could argue that most parents would not be stupid enough to observe the law, if one has to rely upon the public to disobey a law in order to ensure its effectiveness in protecting the public's health, then obviously the proposed law is nonsensical.

This proposal is something which anti-smoking groups should be condemning loudly. But instead, the 3 anti-smoking groups which have publicly spoken out about the proposal so far about the proposal are supporting it.

I think that anti-smoking groups need to get their act together quickly. This proposal would be disastrous for the anti-smoking movement for many reasons.

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