Monday, December 04, 2006

Anti-Smoking Group Pushing to Bar Smokers from Being Adoptive Parents

According to a press release issued last week by the national anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a potential adoptive couple has been denied the possibility of adopting a child because the would-be-father is a smoker, even though he states that he never smokes indoors and would not smoke in the presence of the child.

According to ASH: "A heartbroken couple has been told they cannot adopt a child because he smokes, even though he says he never smokes indoors. Indeed, the prohibition stands until he quits smoking for six months and provides medical documentation that he is no longer a smoker."

The press release does not merely report this news, however. It actively supports the decision to deny potential adoptive parenthood to this couple based solely on the fact that the man is a smoker.

ASH provides a number of reasons why it supports this policy, including the contention that smoking around children is the "most prevalent and dangerous form of child abuse."

In addition, ASH argues that if a person wants to adopt a child, he or she should and must quit smoking first:

"If, as the father claims, he is "desperate" to adopt a child, he should be willing to quit smoking, argues Banzhaf. Many people spend thousands of dollars to adopt, and may be required to make other significant changes in their lifestyles, notes Banzhaf."

Other reasons ASH provides in support of this policy are the fact that the child is more likely to smoke if the parent smokes and that the parent is more likely to die prematurely:

"If the father continues to smoke, the child is also substantially more likely to become a smoker himself even if the father never smokes in his presence, and the child is also substantially more likely to lose his father prematurely."

The Rest of the Story

This is a clear case of moralizing and paternalism, devoid of any meaningful public health protection consideration. If the parent does not subject the child to secondhand smoke, then the smoke poses no direct threat to that child. Thus, there is no health concern that would preclude such an individual from being an adoptive parent. Clearly, the over-riding motivating concern appears to be a moral one - somehow, a smoking parent is inferior to a nonsmoking parent. In fact, a smoking parent is so inferior that he or she cannot even be considered suitable as a parent.

Frankly, it is disgusting to me that ASH is supporting this policy. It is basically spitting in the face of the 50 million smokers throughout the U.S. and telling them that not only are they second-class citizens, but they are unfit parents.

Whether ASH likes it or not and is willing to admit it or not, there are millions of smoking parents in this country, and almost all of them are loving parents who are perfectly fit, according to society's standards, to be parents. In all cases, those who are not "fit" to be parents are not "fit" for reasons other than the fact that they smoke cigarettes.

Being a smoker should not preclude someone from being able to have children, even if they are unable to have children of their own and wish to adopt.

The world, ASH included, owes a debt of gratitude to the thousands of individuals who have adopted children and provide them with a loving home - thousands of these individuals are smokers and we owe them deep gratitude, respect, and appreciation - not spitting in their eyes and rubbing their faces in the dirt.

Denying parenthood to smokers who wish to adopt children will do a far greater disservice to the many children in need of loving parents than the very slight risk that an individual will blatantly lie to an adoption agency about his willingness to smoke outside the home.

Besides, what I would ask ASH is why should just adoptive and foster kids be protected from the moral depravity and abuse of smokers? If smoking is so abusive when one has children, then shouldn't we simply prohibit all parents from being smokers? In other words, shouldn't we just ban smoking by parents, period?

The argument that we need to protect adoptive kids from having a parent who smokes in order to decrease their own risk of smoking is disgusting. By those standards, we should also ban fat people from adopting, as well as people who eat lots of fatty foods and do not get enough exercise. And we should certainly ban people who drive cars from adopting.

Come to think of it - why not just let ASH set all of our moral standards and make all the decisions regarding who is or is not fit to be a parent? As long as ASH is willing to impose its distorted sense of morals on all of us, why not make ASH the clearinghouse for all decisions regarding fitness for parenthood?

It is also quite ironic that the pronouncement that anyone who is desperate to adopt a child should be willing and able to quit smoking comes from the self-proclaimed "mastermind" behind the tobacco litigation - which rests largely on the basic premise that smokers are unable to quit smoking because of an intractable addiction. Apparently, it is highly difficult to quit smoking when you are a plaintiff in a tobacco lawsuit, but easy to do so if you are not looking to win money from Big Tobacco, and instead, are a smoker in the path of ASH's hurricane of intolerance and hatred.

At least some groups in the anti-smoking movement should be with me in condemning this latest statement by Action on Smoking and Health. Sadly, I doubt a single group will join me in speaking out for the idea of treating smokers as human beings deserving of any autonomy or respect.

Frankly, the anti-smoking movement is becoming dangerous in its narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and complete obliviousness to the decency and respect with which public health should be practiced. While only one anti-smoking group is leading the charge in this particular crusade against the rights and citizenship status of smokers, other groups that are silent in the wake of this story may one day end up being viewed as complicit in this crusade.

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