Volume 96, Issue 65
Friday, January 24, 2003

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Smoking: is it child abuse?

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Parents who smoke in the home, and expose their children to second-hand smoke, are guilty of something tantamount to child abuse, according to a statement released this week by the Canadian Lung Association in correspondence with national Non-Smoking Week.

Noel Kerin, medical spokesperson for the Lung Association, said the association's message is fundamentally true.

"[We are] not given to flippant statements," he said. "[Smoking parents] are potentially seriously hurting the child."

The association's goal is to provide people with the bare facts, allowing them to make sound decisions, Kerin explained.

"Ten years ago, you would never have thought smokers would have become a pariah," said Alan Leschied, an education professor at Western. "[It] is already an issue in custody and access disputes."

Leschied said he thought it was an important issue, adding children at particular risk, such as asthmatics, need to be protected.

The Lung Association's campaign is not about presenting an anti-smoker position and is not advocating legislation of the home, Kerin stated. "However, children who grow up with smokers will be regular smokers [about] twice as often," he explained.

Leschied said the suggestion that parents who feed their children too much fast food are abusing them too, is simply not the same. "[There is] the freedom to not eat, but no freedom for the child in the midst of smoke," he explained.

Sarah Tilley, a second-year social science student, said the association's statement was accurate. "The definition of child abuse would be damaging your child physically or mentally," she said.

Second-year social science student Jeff Formanek said there are varying degrees of abuse when it comes to parents smoking. "There are ways around child abuse," he said, noting parents can simply smoke outdoors.

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2002 THE GAZETTE