Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Anti-Smoking Group Says Repeatedly Exposing Children to Secondhand Smoke is Child Abuse

According to Smokefree Pennsylvania, if you frequently take your kids out to restaurants, you may be a child abuser. If those restaurants allow smoking, then according to Smokefree Pennsylvania, you are indeed a child abuser.

Yesterday, Smokefree Pennsylvania stated that "Repeatedly exposing a child to hazardous tobacco smoke pollution is child abuse."

This means that if you repeatedly take a child to a restaurant that allows smoking (thus exposing your child to hazardous tobacco smoke pollution), you are a child abuser.

It also means that if you take your child over to a friend's house and that friend smokes, you are abusing your child.

Or that if your Uncle Henry is a smoker and you don't kick him out of the house when he wants to light up at family get-togethers because you don't want to hurt his feelings, you are abusing your child if these family functions are repeated.

It also means that if you do not believe that secondhand smoke is harmful and you smoke in the presence of your child without any intent to harm the child, you are a child abuser.

And it means that if you are not aware that secondhand smoke is harmful to your child, you are a child abuser if you smoke around the child, even though you had no knowledge that your smoke was harming the child.

And it also means that if there is no evidence that secondhand smoke exposure is causing any health problems for your children (they are not getting ear or respiratory infections or developing asthma because of it), you are still abusing your children if you repeatedly smoke around them.

It means that if you take your kid to New England Patriots games and you visit the concession stands, you are a child abuser (since it is almost impossible to avoid smoke exposure at Pats games if you visit the concession stands).

The Rest of the Story

I view this as a very important story because it demonstrates the current mentality of the anti-smoking movement. It is truly a crusade. It is a narrow-minded movement with blinders on that is unable to see any values beyond not smoking. It is a movement for which not smoking has moral, and not just health value. Most importantly, it is a movement that has been overtaken by fanaticism, by which I mean zeal unchecked by reason.

After all, reason would tell you that exposing a child to secondhand smoke is not, in and of itself, a form of child abuse. Only overzealous thinking that is unchecked by reason would lead one to a conclusion that virtually every parent in the 1980s and earlier was a child abuser (since exposure of children to secondhand smoke in that era was virtually ubiquitous).

It is this lack of reasoning that precludes me from considering myself a part of the current anti-smoking movement. As a scientist and a trained policy analyst, I just cannot divorce myself from reason, argumentation, and development of solid foundations, bases, and justifications for policy positions.

The end result of the abandonment of reason is not only an incorrect and absurd definition of child abuse. It is also what amounts to an offensive and insensitive statement that could well offend anyone who actually has been a victim of child abuse or anyone who knows and loves someone who has been such a victim.

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