Losing Your Parents to Smoking


KATU, a Portland, Oregon, TV station, reports that the physician-activist behind Washington state's smoking ban, Chris Covert-Bowlds, has a new mission: making it a crime to smoke around children. The rule would apply not only to smoking in cars (which Arkansas already has banned) but also to smoking at home. Covert-Bowlds says smoking in the presence of children should be treated as a form of child abuse, although he recommends "educating" parents before hauling them off to jail and putting their kids in foster care.

KATU says an "informal, unorganized and quiet movement" is pushing the equation between smoking and child abuse, which mainstream anti-smoking groups such as the American Cancer Society so far have not endorsed. But the idea polls well, at least among residents of Greater Portland, 63 percent of whom said smoking with kids in the car should be treated as child abuse and 58 percent of whom said the same of smoking around kids at home.

Michael Siegel, who just recently explained how the argument for a ban on smoking in cars when children are present logically leads to a ban on smoking at home when children are present, tells his fellow anti-smoking activists why the latter is a bad idea:

Equating smoking around children with child abuse would be the most devastating and damaging thing that could possibly be done to these children–far worse than the exposure to the secondhand smoke itself. It's one thing to be at an increased risk of developing an upper respiratory infection, middle ear infection, or asthma, but quite another to be seized from the custody of your loving parents.

More generally, as Siegel argues, the health risk from secondhand smoke is simply not great enough to justify the sort of government intrusion that is appropriate when people are starving or beating their kids. If the bar were set as low as Covert-Bowlds recommends, there would be no end to the government's second-guessing of parents' decisions regarding their children's diets, exercise, education, TV viewing, recreational activities, and anything else that could affect their physical or mental health.

Is it really necessary to point this out? Study KATU's poll numbers, and you tell me.