Children's Human Rights Could See Ban on Parents Smoking at Home

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 17, 2007 | Go to article overview

Children's Human Rights Could See Ban on Parents Smoking at Home


Byline: By Rhodri Clark Western Mail

Parents could be banned from smoking in their homes to protect their children's health, following the success of the smoking ban in public places, legal experts have claimed. But such a ban may not happen for many years, because society is not yet ready for such a draconian step, they admit. One legal option would rest on the human rights of children, whose health is damaged more by passive smoking than adults'.

However, human rights rulings usually balance the rights of two sets of people, and one legal expert said judges would currently come down in favour of an adult's right to smoke in their home rather than the child's right to breathe clean air.

The ban on smoking in public places across Britain appears to have improved health already.

On Monday it emerged that heart-attack admissions to Scottish hospitals had dropped 17% in the first year of Scotland's smoking ban.

Researchers also said a national evaluation found a 39% reduction in secondhand smoke exposure in 11-year-olds and in adult non-smokers.

There was no evidence yet of smoking shifting from public places into homes.

But the British Medical Association says five million children in the UK are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Those children are at higher risk of:

Cot death;

Asthma attacks;

Respiratory symptoms;

Impaired breathing, as children and adults;

Middle-ear disease, which can be fatal.

They may also be at greater risk than other children of becoming asthmatic in the first place and of developing childhood cancer.

Scottish research shows that even education is impaired, since children who live with smokers are 44% to 77% more likely to miss school than other children.

Prof Nigel Lowe, deputy head of Cardiff Law School, said smoking in homes could be addressed through smaller steps, such as smoke-free homes being a condition of fostering and adoption.

"The big leap will have to wait until the little leaps have been made," said Prof Lowe, an expert in child law.

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