Passive Smoking - Children Don't Have a Choice
“Freedom of choice!” scream the smokers of our society, when yet another smoking ban is implemented in a public place. Whilst I believe that everybody has the right to make personal choices, the opinion of most non-smokers, myself included, is that we don’t have a choice.
Now, I’m sure that there are many smokers out there who would tell me that, as a person who has never smoked, I cannot possibly comprehend how difficult it is to give up smoking. That’s true. I could empathise, but I could never truly understand. Nor could I ever understand why, in this day and age of readily accessible information on the dangers of smoking, why anyone would want to take up the habit in the first place. However, if people make that choice, it’s not for me to judge.
What I do object to, however, is how a smoker’s choice gives me no control over my choice not to smoke, either actively or passively.
I don’t choose to be subjected to passive smoking when I am out in public, or in the company of those who do smoke. Even when I am seated in the no-smoking zone of a café, the smoke from the smokers’ area inevitably wafts across to the non-smokers’ section.
I did not ask to have smoke blown directly into my face when I was seven months’ pregnant. At the time, I was sat on a tube train opposite a woman who puffed away continuously like an out of control bonfire, yet she made no attempt to divert the passage of the smoke. “Freedom of choice”, she would no doubt argue. Freedom to make life uncomfortable for others, freedom to predispose them to revolting, phlegmy diseases and freedom to ultimately put other people’s lives at risk, including those of innocent, unborn children.
When I lived in Sweden, I had a friend who puffed her way throughout her pregnancy. A pregnancy that lasted a mere six months. Her baby boy was born prematurely and lived for just two hours. My friend was told that her smoking had almost certainly contributed to what had happened. The guilt that she felt, and undoubtedly still feels, will remain with her for the rest of her life. Her son never had the chance to make a choice for himself and it was her choice that was responsible.
My baby did not choose to have cigarette ash flicked in her face from an inconsiderate workman, as I strolled past his parked van with the pushchair. Neither did I choose to acquire a circular burn to my arm when I walked past a woman in a shop doorway, as she was engaged in an animated discourse with a friend and waving her smouldering cigarette around, with little regard for anyone passing within a three foot radius.
Thankfully, not all smokers at that inconsiderate.
I’m sure that the British entertainer, musician and non-smoker, Roy Castle, did not choose to inhale other people’s cigarette smoke when he was doing the club circuit. Yet, eventually, it killed him, by giving him Lung Cancer.
This is not just an isolated case. Hundreds of non-smokers die each year from smoking-related diseases, not to mention the 23% increased risk of heart disease if a non-smoker lives with someone who lights up regularly and an increased risk of having a stroke.
What about those parents who don’t give a second thought about the risks to which they are exposing their children? And I’m not just talking about those selfish women who smoke whilst they are pregnant. I’m referring to the existing children of parents who smoke. The children who are being predisposed to upper respiratory tract infections, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and middle ear infections, not to mention the higher risk of cot death in babies whose parents smoke. Evidence also suggests that children who are regularly exposed to cigarette smoke are also at a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Despite all the substantiation of the risks involved, some people will continue to smoke simply because, they will declare that, they “like it”. And who am I to argue with that? However, I think that maybe this is an excuse that is used because they believe that they don’t have the willpower to give up. I have spoken to many ex-smokers who have admitted that they used this defensive response, when really they would have given anything to be able to quit immediately. Many of them have also confessed that they didn’t really enjoy smoking, but as with any drug, they were addicted.
Nevertheless, if a person who smokes regularly has a young family, then maybe they should look beyond their own, selfish desires and start considering the effect that they could be having on their most treasured gifts. Their children.