A move to outlaw smokers from serving as foster parents is sparking quite the controversy in London. The city’s Redbridge Council has voted for a ban on placing foster kids with any family that has someone who smokes. The goal, members say, is to protect kids from the “damaging effects of passive and second-hand smoke.”
The ruling, set to go into effect next year, is already causing clashes. On the council’s side, members lean on indisputable research of smoking’s effect on children and the increased risk of illness it poses. Tobacco lobby groups and pro-smoking activist groups have, not surprisingly, come forward against the ban. One lobby group claimed it was little more than a new piece in “an ongoing campaign to stigmatize smokers.” Another said it could “exclude” potentially good parents and sends “an insidious message that smokers in general are unfit parents.”
But, let’s be honest here: While they have the right to do as they choose, there’s no question that if people are smoking around their kids, they are not looking out for their children’s best interests first. One might, by very definition, call that “unfit” parenting. It has nothing to do with any inherit values of those who smoke or their potential to be good parents. It has to do with their actions, and the effects those actions have on the kids. And these kids aren’t their own children, in this case, so it’s up to the lawmakers to ensure their well-being. The ban, I would say, actually seems quite reasonable.
Of course, the tricky part comes into how the council defines a “smoker.” Clearly, someone who’s lighting up non-stop in the house differs from someone who might have a cigarette now and again away from the home. The latter, one might think, would not preclude them from becoming foster parents, while the former would. But those parameters haven’t been made totally clear.
Another council, by the way — in Essex — is looking at enacting a similar measure. It already has a partial ban that disallows smokers from fostering kids only the age of five.
This one is bound to cause some disagreement, so let’s put it to the vote. Cast your view below, and feel free to chime in with a comment.