Is Smoking at Home Child Abuse?

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Last week, an upstate New York judge ordered Johnita DeMatteo to stop smoking in her home and in her car if she wanted to maintain her visitation rights with her thirteen year-old son, who lives with his father.

The judge said he made the decision to protect the health of the child.

This case has generated enormous discussion about individual rights. And it has raised some very provocative issues, particularly when the basic facts behind the judge's decision are sorted out.

Most of the coverage of this decision overlooked the obvious question: If judges are so concerned about protecting children from the health effects of second-hand smoke, why is a ruling like this issued only in the case of divorce?

If Johnita DeMatteo were still married — and still smoking — there would be no ruling about second-hand smoke's effect on the child. It would never have come to the court's attention. Clearly, here the claims about health effects are the means for a nonsmoking parent to gain leverage in a divorce struggle.

But the New York judge's decision raises a far, far broader question: We know beyond a shadow of a scientific doubt that childhood exposure to second-hand smoke dramatically increases the chances of respiratory infections, middle-ear effusion (fluid inside the eardrum), and the exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory symptoms. Given that reality, do parents (or others) have the "right" to smoke no matter what the consequences are for the child?

One understandable reaction to this might be: We do not live in a police state, and cigarette smoking is legal, so certainly parents have a right to smoke in their own homes.

But another reaction could be this: Given the known health consequences of a child breathing second-hand smoke, how does the right of the child to good heath stack up against the rights of the smoking parents? Some might argue, "It's no one's business but that of the family involved!" But our society will not tolerate a parent physically abusing — say, beating — a child. How is an activity that regularly imposes health risks and actual sickness upon a child any different from physical abuse?

Consider this example (which I actually observed): A young couple had two small children. The husband smoked, at home and everywhere else. The two children were constantly brought to the emergency room with severe respiratory ailments. Both underwent surgery to relieve fluid inside their eardrums. Eventually, the attending physician had enough and sternly spoke to the father, explaining in no uncertain terms that his cigarette smoke was making his children ill and that if he did not stop smoking in their presence, these illnesses would continue and lead to further health consequences.

In this case, the father quit smoking, and the children's health improved dramatically. But what if instead he had insisted on his "right" to smoke anywhere, anytime? Would society feel obligated to protect the children, as it would in the case of physical abuse? Or do cigarettes have such a protected status that no matter what harm they do to children, they will be tolerated?

Let the dialogue begin.


April 2, 2002

Dear Ms. Whelan:

I agree with you wholeheartedly about subjecting children to secondhand smoke being child abuse. I wish everyone would stop smoking, especially around kids. I grew up with both my parents smoking and to this day (I am now fifty-one) I have respiratory problems. My lungs have always been weak.

I don't blame my parents because in 1950 when I was born the public did not know the dangers of smoking, but the tobacco industry did.

Now, there is no excuse for parents to smoke around kids. With the knowledge we have now about SIDS and smoking it is especially important to keep secondhand tobacco smoke away from kids. Most people have no clue that there are hundreds of chemicals in tobacco smoke, including hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and many others. As you know, hydrogen cyanide is what is used in the gas chamber. No wonder little infants end up dying from SIDS when people smoke around them.

I get livid whenever I see a parent smoking with children in the car. I think the police should stop them and arrest them for child abuse in that circumstance.

—Laurie Comstock

April 2, 2002

Most folks of my generation grew up around smokers (What are the stats for the '40s and '50's? Over half of the country smoked) and — what do you know — we grew up healthy, healthy as kids and healthy as adults. Interesting, too, that in days of yore, there was no "epidemic" of asthma.

Obviously, if a child has severe or unusually recurring respiratory problems, smoking in his direct presence is not the thing to do. But the child in the case you site is perfectly healthy and always was.

Further, the judge in the case forbade the mother to smoke in her home when the healthy child wasn't even there, fearing (she said on Brokaw) that tobacco "residuals" in the furniture might (incredibly) be harmful.

This is your slippery slope, ma'am.

On the one hand, any teen or pre-pubescent who's got a grudge against either parent can "get even" by ratting the parent out to the law. (This was tried in Germany once — and it worked!)

And then on the other, healthy children will be snatched from the happy homes of their loving parents via the lawsuits of pathological groups like ASH or at least be ordered to stop smoking. On pain on what? Would you say jail? Or just losing their healthy kids? Perhaps losing their furniture too? A boon for decorators and Sears.

Will the fact that they are parents turn adults into mere childlike wards of the state? And how about parents who drink? Or fix less than well-balanced meals? Perhaps the state could start treating parents as merely...let's call them "provisional guardians," with the state as the legal parents?


—Sam Stewart

April 2, 2002

Dr. Whelan,

Are you saying that exposing a child to environmental tobacco smoke is child abuse, even when the child is not harmed, simply based on the "risk" of harm?

If that is what you're saying, where do you draw the line?

"How to Rank Risks" by Bernard L. Cohen, published on your very own website on February 27, 2002, points out that poverty is a far higher risk than even direct smoking, so to follow your logic, children should be removed from poor parents. Even race has risks; would you then deny black parents their children?

Of course parents shouldn't smoke if their children have asthma or other respiratory illnesses, even though the rate of those illnesses has tripled during the same time the rate of smoking has been halved. But in a situation like the Dematteo case, in which the child has not been harmed but is simply "embarrassed" by his mother's smoking, this is a very dangerous precedent.

—M.L. Herrin
Alta Loma, California

April 2, 2002

Dr. Whelan:

In your article "Is Smoking at Home Child Abuse?" you ask, "do cigarettes have such a protected status that no matter what harm they do to children, they will be tolerated?"

Wrong question. The question should be: Is "private property" so meaningless that the government can step into our very families on the basis not of harm but mere risk, no matter how slight?

Many of your writings show you to be a thoughful, lucid thinker, but when you turn to the issue of smoking, you are blinded by your hatred of the industry.

—Max McGarrity
The People's Republik of Kalifornia

April 2, 2002

Dr. Whelan wrote: "The two children were constantly brought to the emergency room with severe respiratory ailments...[he was told] if he did not stop smoking in their presence, these illnesses would continue..."

Under these conditions, it seems clearly to be child abuse. Interference in more nebulous cases of bad child-parent interaction should be ruled out, though, as usual.

What might help is an education campaign. I have noticed that some doctors seem amazed that consumers are not more alert to unhealthy behavior.

—T. Watson

April 6, 2002

Ms. Whelan,

Many parents do things to their kids that aren't good for them; giving them non-nourishing diets, not using seat belts, sending them out in cold weather without proper garments, and a plethora of things many of us haven't considered. Where is the line to be drawn? Hell, a child might be allergic to a beloved family pet. I suppose it would be the right thing to give up the pet, but we all know some fanatic pet owners who would never consider giving up old Spot. Maybe Uncle Sam should step in and say, "You can keep old Spot, but little Johnny is coming with us!"

I'm so weary of the government's hypocrisy over tobacco. If they really want what is best for "the children" and everyone else they should simply outlaw tobacco. End of problem! But no, Uncle Sam is too addicted to the revenue created by the many taxes on tobacco. I read somewhere that the government — federal, state and local — makes more money from cigarettes than the manufacturers do. People who are suing tobacco companies should really be suing the government that is "pimping" them. The same can be said for alcohol. No, our government doesn't give a damn about the health risks. Not when compared to the risks of not having the tax revenues.

Parents come in many shades of competency. No test is required to make babies. Maybe the government should tax people for having kids.

—Wayne Green

Hamton, VA

April 6, 2002

Dear Ms. Whelan,

Among the letters to the Forum, some defend smoking by parents. Beware the slippery slope, they say. Children are going to turn their parents in like during the Nazi era, they say. Huh? Haven't I heard that before from the tobacco lobby?

The judge's ruling was rather refreshing. Instead of waiting for the parent's smoking to do harm, he ruled to protect the child from harm. With every other court decision, the protection has come after the child has a disease that is made worse by tobacco smoke. Studies show that asthma can be created. Children and adults can develop it following exposure to tobacco smoke. Children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy have higher rates of asthma. SIDS is much higher among smoke-exposed infants.

Scientists tell us that tobacco smoke has at least six hundred toxins, which include carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and forty-three carcinogens. These chemicals produce cancers and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in smokers. Passive smoke has the same poisons and produces diseases in nonsmokers. Even children of nonsmoking women, who were exposed to tobacco smoke, have higher rates of certain diseases.

Is smoking around a child, child abuse? Yes, it can be. If a person slapped a child on the ear and it resulted in a burst eardrum, loss of hearing or even deafness, that person could be arrested for child abuse even if the person is a parent. Passive smoke increases the risk of ear infections, which can even lead to deafness. The most common operation during childhood is putting tubes in the ears. The difference between the that and the slap may just be intent. But I bet 99% of the slappers would also say they didn't mean to cause hearing problems. The result is the same.

You noted that tobacco has been protected. Tobacco has been exempted from many federal regulations that most everything else is governed by. The FDA has not yet been given authority over tobacco, nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission and others. The tobacco in cigarettes has poisons and carcinogens even before being lit. When other products are found to contain poisons they are altered or taken off the shelves. President Bush finally agreed to lower arsenic levels in water because it is a known human carcinogen. However, has anyone proposed lowering the arsenic level in tobacco?

After enough study, it was concluded that lead is bad for people. Action was taken, and its decreased use affected four major industries: lead, paint, gasoline, and cars. Now children playing at schools close to freeways are less polluted with lead. Fewer children are eating paint chips and suffering mental degradation. Why? Because we decided it was time to get the lead out.

Articles say that smokers get more colds and flu. Passive smoking increases the rate among nonsmokers, also. Thus, children of smokers may get more respiratory diseases due to passive smoke and by catching their parents' infections.

There should be mechanisms to protect children from tobacco smoke, both when they have a disease and even to prevent diseases. Here in Georgia, a man put 339 bodies around his property instead of cremating them. We didn't have a law against desecration of bodies, but now we do. His crematorium wasn't inspected because it was not open to the public, but now all of them will be inspected. Sometimes laws come in handy, even though they might be viewed as draconian if each case was prosecuted to the full extent.

One writer noted that the asthma rate is going up, but the smoking rate has fallen substantially. Our buildings are now much tighter than in the 40s and 50s. Houses in the past breathed and had maybe twelve exchanges of air per hour, and now it might be one per hour. Thus, a little pollution does as much harm as the greater amounts did back then.

Tobacco smoke hurts children (and other nonsmokers). Violence and neglect hurt children. Maybe smoking should just be called child endangerment. But by any other name a rose is a rose.

—D. Gordon Draves

April 7, 2002

Dear Dr. Whelan,

I don't know what planet these people are on when they say we didn't know back in the 50s that smoking was bad for us! We surely knew it then. It was nothing new then, nor is it new now.

I grew up around second hand smoke, and I also smoke. My whole family still smokes, by choice. Those in our family that became fed up with smoking quit! No quitting-aids, either.

When I grew up, there was no such thing as asthma. Now, "they" claim smoking is down, yet asthma is running rampant.

Tobacco is still a legal product, which, sadly, has become a big money maker for the anti's and the government. They want to bleed our pockets dry because we smoke. The anti's talk out of both sides of their mouth, saying they want us to quit, while digging deeper into our wallets.

If you don't smoke, fine. But those of us that do, enjoy it. It's been our choice and our right for many, many years. There are many studies stating that second-hand smoke is not a killer and does not cause asthma. I'm tired of the war on smokers and I'm tired of the lies about smoking.

Also, I am tired of Big Tobacco getting the credit for all our hard work. There are a lot of us fighting for this cause, yet the anti's say it's Big Tobacco. It's not. It's everyday citizens. And we do have the right to speak up!

—Darlene Brennan


April 8, 2002

Dear Dr. Whelan,

My husband and I are smokers with four children. We don't spank or punish or abuse our kids in any way, shape, or form. One of my children does have asthma, but I was told by his doctor that it isn't caused by our smoking; it is hereditary! Now, we don't smoke in the house or the cars because of our children. I don't want them inhaling the second hand smoke, but because we smoke are we considered bad parents or parent that abuse our children?

I think if you would pay attention to all the other children in this country that are being abused and starved and just taken for granted, it would be a better place. We love our children greatly and would do anything for them, but to be told that we are abusive because we choose to smoke is ridiculous. Yes, smoking has its harmful effects, but so does drinking!

Still, I don't condone the fact that parents won't think of their children first and won't avoid smoking around the children. They should take that into consideration and do what is best for their children.


April 8, 2002

I am pleased to finally see a judge that is strong enough to use logic and scientific evidence to make a ruling about a child's rights when exposed to harmful chemicals in his mother's cigarettes. So many of us are too blinded by the money generated and the threats made by the tobacco industry to speak out against the abuse of children going on every day in this country. I was a victim of this abuse.

Each time we made a car trip when I was young, I would end up sick, eyes swollen, throwing up. It was passed off as car sickness. My father smoked Lucky Strikes in the car with the windows up. When he smoked, I was sick. Surprisingly and sadly, after my father passed away at the young age of thirty-nine, I stopped being sick on car trips. He wasn't with us, and there was no smoke in the car. I hate the fact that the tobacco industry knew then in the 60s why I was sick and why my father had his first heart attack at twenty-eight and why he developed cancer in his thirties. I also hate them for the fact that he used a gun to end his life because of his cancer. He felt he was being a burden to my mother and his five daughters.

Thank you, judge, for your decision. The mother may be upset at this point but hopefully will stop a deadly practice that will help her be able to be the mother and nurturer she needs to be to her son, and hopefully to her grandchildren to come.


April 9, 2002

Dr. Whelan,

Can you please tell me how many times children in smoking households have been subjected to prolonged suffering because cigarette smoke was wrongly blamed for whatever condition the child suffered from, once the doctor discovered smoking was taking place in the home and looked no further for other causes?

There are numerous articles written by scientists that show childhood respiratory irritation is caused by pets, dust, and local air pollution and discount cigarette smoke as the major factor. A study published in the Lancet in August 2001 reported, "The rise in respiratory problems could not be linked to household risk factors such as passive smoking, gas cooking, pets, or low parental education attainment because those factors declined over the period, the team reports."

Perhaps we should blame the doctors for abuse when they fail to accurately diagnose a child's medical problem because of anti-smoking hysteria that says cigarette smoke must be the culprit if it occurs around a child.

—Audrey Silk

April 11, 2002

Dear Ms. Whelan,

I am a twenty-three year-old college graduate who grew up in a house where both my mother and father smoked.

To say that smoking is not bad for you is plain ignorant. However, to defend someone's right to smoke — that is being an American. To praise a child who took his mother to court on charges of child abuse because of smoking is, in my humble opinion, ridiculous. This is a clear-cut issue, and an internal family issue. We are teaching children that it is OK to let the government settle family issues instead of the families doing it themselves. Have American values really degraded so much that it is now OK to sell out your own family?

There was no real abuse here. Ask any child who was really abused and he or she will probably tell you that they would have loved to have had a loving mother or father, smoker or not. People that say this cigarette smoke is harming the youngster are not even considering the strain that now most likely exists in the relationship between this mother and her son.

Personally, I am very glad that I handled the cigarette smoke of my mother and father. I have maintained a healthy relationship with them. I played four sports in high school and can say clearly that the smoke didn't affect me. And you know what? When the smoke bothered me, I asked them to put it out!

This second-hand cigarette smoke will most likely never put this child's health in serious jeopardy, but if this child loses the trust and love of his mother, what then? Does the government send him to a shrink and tell him he did the right thing? Should we applaud this child for his "heroics" or criticize him for the degradation of his family? Yes, smokers know smoking is a health risk, just as motorists know that driving is. The point is, people are people, and they are entitled to their personal rights, especially in their own home!

For those who feel so strongly in favor of this judge's ruling: quit driving, because you, just like smokers, are contributing to the degradation of someone's respiratory system.

—Justin Hall

April 11, 2002

I think your case of a father who smoked when his two kids were around is a crock. If you are so concerned, why don't you stop driving that car that could kill or walking on that carpet that has who knows what in it?


April 11, 2002

Dr. Whelan,

You contend that smoking around a child should be perceived as child abuse, on the grounds that there is a probable health risk. Well then, why stop there?

The parent who allows the child to freely eat junk food should be arrested for child abuse because the child could become overweight. Or parents who allow their child to sit and watch TV each day instead of forcing them to play outside, are those parents guilty of child abuse? Now I ask you this question: is smoking worse than either of these instances of "child abuse"? Isn't promoting a sedentary lifestyle worse than smoking around the child? The lifestyle of eating garbage and watching endless TV will be with them their entire lives, whereas the child can choose to be around the smoke or not. All these people so concerned about tobacco need to divert their attention to something more worthwhile. If people are so concerned about breathing crap in the air, it's perhaps best for them not to think about how much crap cars and industry pump into the air every day.

Leave us smokers be.

—Mark Bruder

April 11, 2002

Dear Dr. Whelan,

I personally never smoked. Having an older sister who got sick when she started smoking long ago gave me a reason not to start smoking. I decided, thank goodness, not to start long before I had all the facts about smoking.

My sister has a severe form of asthma and she is trying to quit. When she was a regular smoker, she ended up in the hospital emergency room on a regular basis. Just over a year ago my mother had cancer of the esophagus after smoking for nearly fifty years. Fortunately, the doctors caught it in time ( or was it?). My grandfather, my grandmother on my mother's side, and her sister were not so lucky. They all died of cancer. I understand that there can be a genetic predisposition in certain families. Yes, there were probably other factors, but why play Russian roulette? One might be the weakest link in one's family, so why take a chance? Yes, some people have smoked for a long time before they died at ripe old age. But that's not the majority, is it?

If that's not a good enough reason to stop smoking, I don't know what else can be said. Now I try to teach my children that smoking is unhealthy, so that someday they won't be inclined to light up because of peer pressure.

I don't agree with the bashing of smokers. If some people want to enjoy smoking and kill themselves slowly, so be it. This is the United States of America, where people have rights and certain freedoms granted by the Constitution. That Constitution is the reason why this country was founded, after all, so be tolerant of others even if you don't agree with them. But let's have some common sense, too. If you have children or non-smokers living with you, please smoke in a well-ventilated room, such as the kitchen, and turn on the hood over the stove to pull the air out of the room and the house, so others won't be affected by it. If you can afford to have a room that is modified for pulling the smoke out of the air, that's better. If your kids ( or other non-smokers ) start having health problems even with your precautions, I recommend that you either smoke outside for their sake and health or stop smoking.

Remember, you may have rights but not ones that infringe on other people's. If you want to smoke (though I will never recommend that to anyone ), that's your thing, but you do not have the right to impose it on others. Life and health are fragile. Let's treat them that way.

—Den Rousse

April 11, 2002

Smoking is a habit. The facilitation of said habit is a choice. People don't _have_ to smoke. One would think that, for the sake of their children's health, people would be able to exercise some degree of restraint. Most adults use bad words, but they don't do it around the kids. And they do other things that are not necessarily "wrong" but are not in the best interests of the kids — without doing them around the kids. Anyone who even thinks that what they are doing might be dangerous to the mental or physical health of their children and doesn't stop is guilty of child abuse.


April 11, 2002

I agree that second-hand smoke is bad for everyone, but I disagree with the judge's ruling forbidding the divorced parent to smoke during visitation with the thirteen year-old adolescent. This sets a bad precedent and further criminalizes smoking. I do not and never have smoked, but I believe others have the right to smoke when, and for the most part where, they want.

I grew up in a smoking household (my mother smoked). Nevertheless, I never had any health or respiratory problems. In fact, all my life I have participated in endurance sports that require me to have exceptional aerobic capacity. I never felt any ill effects from being around my mother's second-hand smoke.

I think the epidemic of allergies and respiratory problems in this country stems from pollution from buses, cars, and airplanes, and only a small portion of the problem can be attributed to cigarette smoke. Look at how many more cars/buses/trucks are on our roads, and how many more airplanes are in our skies, compared with thirty to forty years ago. At the same time, smoking among adults has decreased.

Smokers get a bad rap and are unfairly becoming the scapegoats for many of our problems.

New Jersey

April 12, 2002

Dear Dr. Whelan:

When you started discussing the health effects of second hand smoke on children you should have prefaced your remarks with "In my opinion..."

On your own website, under the heading Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Health Risk or Hype, the following appears:

"Extensive epidemiological evidence indicates that ETS exposure is a weak risk factor in the development of lung cancer in nonsmokers regularly exposed to ETS in the workplace and/or at home...Epidemiological evidence also suggests that ETS is a weak risk factor for heart disease in nonsmoking spouses of smokers and in nonsmokers regularly exposed to ETS in the workplace and/or at home."

This article is headed with the statement "...the most common adverse effect is stated to be irritation of the eyes and nose." Either you did not read this report or because of your own anti-smoker/smoking stance chose to ignore it. I have found it extremely interesting that the common phrases in all anti-smoking literature are "increased risk," "may be related," and "exacerbation of pre-existing conditions," which when quoted by others suddenly become facts about ETS. Also reported as fact are any numbers precede by the phrases "it is estimated that" and "may be as many as."

On the subject of harm to children: I have four children raised in a smoking household all who the health officials might state were small (six-pounders) due to my smoking. But the smallest of my three sons is now six foot one, the tallest six foot three, and all three tip the scales at two hundred pounds. My daughter is five foot ten and would kill me if I said how much she weighs. None of my children are asthmatic, nor did they have recurring respiratory problems or ear infections. And of the four, only one smokes.

As for the point made about smokers being conveniently blamed for any ill that befalls them, it is true. I had one doctor tell me that my "chronic" bronchitis was due to my smoking. I am sixty-three and have had bronchitis twice with the time lapse between the two episodes being twenty-six years.

Your report, even though it states the ETS health risks are minimal, ends with the prerequisite health warnings. Enough already. Do the general public a favor and let the truth speak for itself.

—Constance E. Snyder

April 15, 2002

I agree that children should not be around smoke. I grew up around smoke; both my parents smoked and my father still smokes a pipe (believe it or not he is almost ninety-three years old and denies smoking has affected his health; he also has heart failure). As a child, I had frequent colds, sinus trouble, etc., even though no one ever mentioned second-hand smoke as the culprit. My sister had asthma. None of us smokes now.

Regarding the case of the mother who was ordered by the judge to quit smoking: I feel he made a good point. She should not smoke around her child even though the child has no apparent health problems, yet. But I have also been divorced. There could be an argument made that the father is using this issue as a control mechanism against his ex-wife. I do not dispute his good intentions as far as protecting his son, but I also feel, since the father is the custodial parent, there may be an element of control here. Regardless, the mother should avoid smoking.

Overall, I believe smoking is dangerous. Whenever I go to my father's house, even when he isn't smoking, I still come away coughing because the residual smoke is in everything. I am lucky now that I do not have lung problems. I exercise regularly by swimming laps and I make sure I do not go to places where there is smoking (other than my dad's, which is hard to avoid). Thank you for letting me share this.

—SJ Larson

April 24, 2002

Regarding your article on children being exposed to second hand smoke:

Research in this area has been given a boost (no, the tobacco boys aren't writing checks voluntarily). In 1997, a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 60,000 flight attendants was in trial and the night before the lead plaintiff, Norma Broin was scheduled to testify, the five tobacco companies came forward and offered to settle.

Norma was born in Utah, raised a Morman, never smoked or drank, married her sweetheart, a Marine sargeant, had three children and flew twenty-six years for a major airline. Norma was diagnosed with lung cancer, the kind smokers get, and lost a lung. A research fund was set up in the amount of $300 million dollars to research the health effects of second-hand smoke. Flight attendants were held hostage in an enclosed aluminum tube at 35,000 feet with concentrated, toxic levels of second-hand smoke. The second-hand smoke was the #1 complaint of flight attendants for years and fell on deaf ears. The tobacco boys were on the other side, fighting to maintain smoking on airplane.

Flight attendants will now go forward with their individual cases. Flight attendants suffer from chronic sinusitus, chronic bronchitus, asthma, lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, and a whole host of respiratory diseases. The tobacco companies still lie to us and deceive us in ever more creative ways. Until we take a stand — as we watch our friends and families perish so painfully from smoking related illness — the lies and cover-ups will continue. What other product can one purchase over the counter, use as directed, and likely die from?

For those of you who are still in denial over your smoking habit and its health effects, think about this: A child is born without its sinuses fully developed, and they are not fully developed until the age of sixteen. The role of the sinuses is to protect the lungs and to clean, heat, and humidify air before it enters the lungs. When the sinuses are exposed to second-hand smoke, irritation can occur, bringing on a sinus infection. Repeated sinus infections can cause further damage to the cilia and mucosal lining, making it very difficult for the sinuses to do their job. How sensitive do you suppose a child's sinuses are?

—Suzette R. Ahrendt Janoff

August 15, 2002

Thank you for the reminder that harming children, however any selfish adult does so, constitutes child abuse. Deliberate exposure of children to hydrogen cyanide would hopefully not be defended by anyone — and that is only one of the many carcinogenic chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. (Will a soundbite about "dose response" appear from a smoker who sees nothing wrong with placing a child at avoidable risk?)

Once again, we see the obvious denials from a handful of diehard smokers who try to justify selfish and abusive behavior with their alleged right to poison others, children included. The claim that there are other risks to children (What about poverty, etc., etc.?) does not alter the fact that no doubt exists anymore about the harm caused by exposure to tobacco smoke.

Nicotine addiction means the administration of regular doses of nicotine prevails over common sense. Exposing children to tobacco smoke causes them harm, and smokers are guilty of child abuse every time they smoke around a child. It is such a simple matter not to smoke around children.

Ginny Lovell
Vancouver, Canada

July 3, 2003

How do you feel about day care centers and children's institutions being smoke-free while chain-smoking licensed foster parents are taking in children — from teenagers to tiny little infants — from nonsmoking families, as if it is perfectly all right to fill these foster children's lungs and eyes with cigarette smoke all day long in their homes and cars?


See also: ACSH's site for teens detailing the specific health effects of being a smoker,