I smoked while I was pregnant with my children. I smoked while they were little. I smoked at home, in the car, at work, and in public places. I would have smoke in a hospital if I could get away with it. I loved smoking! Then my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She was dead in 4 months. I changed my tune about smoking. Before my mother died, I promised her that I would do everything I could to not die the way she was dying. As her illness ate her alive, I became intimately aware of how painful it would be for my children to see me die this way. That’s what made me start thinking about the more immediate problems associated with having a mother who smokes.
It was “genocide” when children were put in the gas chambers at the death camps during World War II. Yet the same chemical used in those gas chambers (hydrogen cyanide) is an additive in cigarettes. Purposefully exposing a child to a deadly gas is child abuse by definition. Nobody “accidentally” lights a cigarette. It’s child abuse.
Alright, what’s just one little deadly chemical? One? Wait, there’s more. If hydrogen cyanide doesn’t kill innocent bystanders, how about formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic and ammonia?
The American Lung Association reports the following disturbing statistics regarding 2nd hand smoke.
1. 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age result from 2nd hand smoke each year. These infections lead to between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year, and cause 430 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths.
2. 2nd hand smoke may cause buildup of fluid in the middle ear, resulting in up to 790,000 physician office visits per year.
3. 2nd hand smoke can also aggravate symptoms in 400,000 to 1,000,000 children with asthma.
4. 35 percent of American children live in homes where residents or visitors smoke in the home on a regular basis.
5. Between 50-75 percent of children in the United States have detectable levels of cotinine, the breakdown product of nicotine in the blood.
If we consider the gas chambers of World War II to be a form of genocide (and certainly, it was) then 2nd hand smoke can be no less than a form of child abuse and maybe even a form of genocide.
I don’t smoke any more.