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No Right to Smoke Around Child [11/06-2]

Reprinted below is a letter printed in the Washington Times [11/05/97] from Action on Smoking and Health:


Since your Nov. 3 article "What are the rights of addicted parents?" covered only situations involving illicit drugs and alcohol, your readers might be interested to know about limits on the rights of the largest category of addicted parents - those addicted to nicotine.

In at least 15 states in which the issue has been raised, courts have held that, in view of the overwhelming evidence of the harmful effects of secondhand tobacco smoke, smokers have no legal right to smoke around their children.

Thus, when the issue has been raised in divorce and custody proceedings, the smoking parent usually has agreed to a court order prohibiting smoking in the child's presence, including in the family home, car, etc.

Parents who do not agree to such an order or have been found to violate it can lose custody - temporarily or permanently. In several cases, parents have lost custody when a person outside the family - such as a physician - has complained to authorities that parental smoking is causing health problems for the child.

As evidence of the harmful effects of tobacco smoke - including almost 200 child deaths each year from complications of smoke-induced respiratory infections -continues to accumulate, the notion that parents have a "right" to smoke around their children probably will continue to crumble.

Executive director
Action on Smoking and Health

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Presented as a public service by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), 2013 H Street, N.W., Wash., DC 20006, USA, (202) 659-4310. ASH is a 30-year-old national legal-action antismoking organization which is entirely supported by tax-deductible contributions.