09/07/2012 05:25 EDT | Updated 11/07/2012 05:12 EST

Stop Smoking Around Your Kids -- and Mine


Let me start with this: I believe in personal freedom. I do. I believe that as a responsible, tax-paying, free-thinking adult in this fine country, you have earned your rights.

Too bad smoking around babies and children is legal. It shouldn't be.

When I was pregnant with my first child, we were told by a prenatal course instructor that the effects of second- and third-hand smoke are so dangerous for babies that anyone who smokes and wants to handle our child should first shower, brush their teeth and change clothes. The threat of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was enough for me to explain to my own father -- a smoker for many, many years -- that these would be the rules before he came to visit his grandchild.

I never asked him to quit; I never so much as insinuated he quit. It was a very matter-of-fact conversation. He gave his grandchild the best welcome-to-the-world gift I could imagine: Grandpa quit smoking. Four years later, he still respects his grandchildren's health enough to remain a non-smoker.

In my little community, I don't see parents smoking at all, and if they do, they do it much less around kids. So when we went to the CNE recently, I was shocked. From the moment we stepped off of the GO Train, I was hit with scene after scene of moms, dads and other caregivers lighting up. In some cases, cigarettes dangling in the faces of some of these poor kids while mom had a chat with dad.

One man held the door for us as we were exiting the Direct Energy Centre (nice thing to do); seemingly unaware, he blew smoke into my face, and into my daughter's who I was wearing in a baby carrier (not a nice thing to do). I was livid. I coughed dramatically and waved my hands wildly in the air.

I wondered if these people just don't know any better. Really? There's so much information available. Take the Canadian Lung Association, which clearly notes that "second-hand smoke can cause ear infections, breathing problems, SIDS, and serious diseases in kids."

It goes on to state why -- including the fact that kids breathe in more air relative to their body weight, absorbing more smoke than adults -- and put a statistician's touch on the number of deaths due to second-hand smoke in Canada. Like any preventable death, even one is too many if you ask me.

Let me end with this: I believe that, as parents, most of us want to do anything to keep our kids safe. I believe that most of us are doing the best we can. I believe that there are a lot of things I do as a parent for which I'm judged, so I try hard not to do the same to other parents. But on the subject of smoking around your offspring -- the little beings you're supposed to do anything to protect -- and mine, I do judge you. And I won't apologize for it.