Here, little’n. Have a cigarette

Posted on June 24, 2010

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Smoking while pregnant...a human right

Women who smoke when they’re pregnant make me angry. Despite the people who will inevitably read this and be very, very annoyed.

What about civil liberties? What about personal choice? Fine. Deprive yourself of oxygen. But don’t deprive an unborn child who has no choice but to breathe your air.

Still, despite my apparently black-and-white views on smoking during pregnancy, news that a health watchdog has recommended that pregnant women should be tested for levels of carbon monoxide in them throws up an interesting debate.

As a non-smoker, I don’t pretend to understand how difficult it would be to give up smoking. But, as a woman, I know that I could never, ever do anything to harm my baby if I became pregnant. I am addicted to tea, but I’d give it up in a second if it damaged unborn babies. I’d give up eating if it hurt my baby.

Some people couldn’t (or wouldn’t), though. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be forcibly monitored by the NHS. Would guilting expectant mothers actually lead to more damage through stress? Or would positively encouraging them to give up smoking give them the kick-start they need to quit?

The recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence suggest encouragement, rather than a slap on the wrist every time mums-to-be are caught with a ciggie. But, naturally, there are concerns that this would pressure mums and make them feel guilty. There are cries that it’s more meddling from a nanny state that should just leave people be.

It could be a positive thing, though. Maybe, if you’re not willing to do it just because you know you shouldn’t smoke while pregnant, having a check-up to keep you on track would be a good way to keep going. But then where does it stop? Checkups on how much booze you’re drinking?

You can force people into as many checkups as you like, but if someone is more concerned about themselves than their child, it isn’t going to change that attitude. Not even that. If someone “can’t” do something, they’re just plain not going to.

Image from Jeff_Werner‘s photostream.

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