Thank You for Not Smoking

How do you tell an acquaintance their smoking not only bothers you, but it's a hazard to your health and your child's?

I grew up a smoker; before I even finished elementary school I could inhale 10 cigarettes in an hour. Shocking isn’t it? I did not smoke by choice; both of my parents were smokers and could put away a pack a day each. According to statistics, children that spend an hour in a smoky room can inhale toxins equivalent to 10 cigarettes. As I grew up and learned the dangers of secondhand smoke, I would leave the room when they lit up. Sadly this was not an option when we took a car ride somewhere, then I was trapped.

The dangers of secondhand smoke are widely known; 69 chemicals in cigarette smoke are known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in non-smokers, it has also been associated with heart disease in adults, sudden infant death and asthma attacks in children.

It’s probably no surprise that I am not a smoker, I was never tempted to light up and my husband is the same way. I was adamant my children would not be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke like I was. So far it has been easy to achieve this, none of our friends smoke and my mom quit so I don’t have to ask her to step outside when she comes to visit.

Over the last decade many states have banned smoking in public places. As a parent, I was thrilled when Connecticut followed suit knowing I could now bring my kids out to eat in a restaurant without fear of the diners at the next table lighting up.

Recently, though, one of my kids has been making new friends and one girl has parents who smoke. My daughter went to her house once and her parents pretty much chain-smoked in the house the whole time she was there. The dilemma for me is how do I tactfully turn down further invitations to the girl’s house? So far I have made excuses and had the girl come visit at our house, but I am going to run out of excuses soon.

I know I am not the only one with this problem. I had a conversation with a friend recently and she had insisted that when her son went to the smoker’s house, they play outside in the yard. I have teenagers so they don’t “play outside” any more so her solution was great for her, not so much for me!

Denise April 25, 2012 at 04:52 PM
This is a great topic and I'm glad you wrote about it so we can raise awareness on this issue. I wish people were more informed about the dangers of secondhand (and thirdhand) smoke. If it were about getting drunk in front of the child I bet you wouldn't hestitate to share your concerns - only because of the education surrounding alcohol abuse is much greater. Education about the dangers of secondhand smoking is lagging (but it will get there). Unless I felt comfortable with the smoking parents, I would probably be too concerned about offending them and continue to make excuses. Ultimately it's their house and their decision to smoke in it - the only part you can control is allowing your child to enter it. Even if they were to oblige your request for them not to smoke while your daughter is over, their house is still covered with carcinogens and toxins (thirdhand smoke), so the best solution is just to not allow your daughter in the house. If ever confronted or asked, I'd then use the opportunity to say, "Well, since you asked.." and politely share my concerns while emphasizing the health risks. I'd be sure to point out how much I value the children's friendship, but just not the smoking part. It blows my mind that smoking is legal given the irrefutable health risks associated with it!


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