Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Anti-Smoking Group Supporting Proposal That Will Increase Kids' Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

A national anti-smoking group - Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) - yesterday expressed its public support of a proposal that would increase secondhand smoke exposure of children by forcing their parents to smoke inside, rather than outside the home.

In its action alert, ASH supported the proposed ordinance in Belmont, California and urged its constituents to write letters to the Belmont City Council supporting the ordinance. While an actual ordinance has yet to be drafted, the Council has given approval to the drafting of a measure that would ban smoking in all indoor and outdoor areas of the city, with the exception of detached, single-family homes.

According to ASH's action alert: "The City of Belmont, California, is considering a comprehensive smoking ban ordinance. It would be the first to protect nonsmokers from secondhand tobacco smoke not only in public places and outdoors, but also in their own apartments and condominiums. It could serve as a model and as a catalyst for similar legislation throughout California and the rest of the country."

ASH urges its constituents to write letters to the Belmont City Council in support of the proposal and to "Be sure to state at the beginning of your email that you are urging the City Council of Belmont to pass a comprehensive ordinance to protect nonsmokers both outdoors and in their apartments."

The Rest of the Story

I agree with ASH that if Belmont enacts the ordinance as proposed, it will serve as a model for the rest of the country. Unfortunately, it will serve as a model of a disastrous ordinance that severely harms the health of the nation's children by forcing them to be exposed to increased levels of secondhand smoke by making it unlawful for their parents to smoke outside of the home and requiring them instead to smoke inside.

As I revealed two weeks ago, the Belmont proposal would increase secondhand smoke exposure among children because it makes it unlawful for smoking parents to considerately step outside to smoke in a way that prevents their kids from being exposed. Instead, smoking parents who live in detached, single-family dwellings will be encouraged by the law to smoke inside where their children will be exposed.

The only way that this proposed ordinance will not increase children's exposure to secondhand smoke is if parents intentionally disobey the law. And I would argue that any law which has to rely upon people disobeying it in order to avoid disastrous public health consequences is not a law that any public health group has any business supporting.

The irony of this story is that ASH is the very same group that just last week expressed such extreme concern about the exposure of kids to secondhand smoke in the home that it supported denying smokers the right to adopt children, even if they promise not to smoke in the presence of their children, simply because of the off-chance that a smoker might lie or change his or her mind.

This is also the same group that is supposedly so concerned about childrens' exposure to secondhand smoke that it supports policies to ban smoking in cars with children present and to ban smoking by foster parents in the home.

For ASH to then turn around and support a policy that would force children to be exposed to secondhand smoke by making it unlawful for smoking parents to smoke outside, keeping the smoke away from their children, is terribly inconsistent and makes me question ASH's integrity.

Is this truly a group interested in protecting the public's health, or is it just a group that wants to punish smokers and make their lives as difficult as possible, regardless of the consequences for our nation's children?

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