THE SUNDAY TIMES • 18 OCTOBER 1992
Where there’s smoke there’s prejudice Preventing smokers from adopting or fostering would be a dangerous precedent, says libertarian CHRIS TAME
(Article scanned and corrected by Mike Moliver, September 2013)
In both the US and Europe, anti-smoking activists are increasingly describing smoking as a form of child abuse that should be prohibited. The new guidelines proposed for adoption organisations by Dr Marion Miles, chairman of the medical group of British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, include the idea of a ban on children being adopted or fostered by smokers.
As the director of the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (FOREST), I am appalled. Wearing my other hat, that of the director of the civil liberation group, the Libertarian Alliance, I regard this particular proposal as an ominous sign of the broader threat to civil liberties posed by “political correctness” as imposed by the Nanny State.
The idea of banning adoption and fostering by smokers is based on politically biased interpretation – not to say falsification – of the real scientific evidence. The great bulk of this evidence simply does not support the hypothesis that environmental tobacco smoke, or ETS (otherwise known as “passive smoking”), is a threat to non-smokers.
The research done on the impact of ETS on children also generally neglects to separate out the “compounding factors”, the effects of social class, environment and hereditary factors. In fact, the passive smoking scare is simply another example of “junk science” of the type endemic in the environmentalist movement, where worst-case extrapolations about global warming have been relayed as proven scientific fact.
But even supposing that parental smoking did pose a very small threat to children (which is the most that is suggested by those reports which did find some threat), does that justify banning smokers from adopting or fostering? I say no! This supposedly pro-health proposal is actually an anti-working class one.
What we are observing here is but one battle in the ongoing war between the real working class and the social working class (or SWC). Working-class children are all at risk, and always have been, through their less generally safe environment and through alleged working-class values (such as immediate rather than “deferred gratification”).
So, if safety is such a big issue, why stop with smokers? Why not forbid adoption and fostering by anybody who is working class? After all, working-class health, working-class education, working-class life expectancy, working-class life in general is, statistically speaking, less good than life for the middle and upper classes. Once you concede that environmentally unsuitable parents may not adopt, where does it stop? Why should “inappropriate” adults even be allowed to have children at all?
At Reading University the sociologist Dr Bill Thompson has argued that the anti-smoking movement, which will stop at nothing less than total prohibition, is only the latest in a long line of coercive crusades and moral panics, by means of which upper and middle class elites seek to impose their lifestyle and preferences upon the working classes. Like all such enterprises, the anti-smoking movement seeks to suppress adult liberties by talking endlessly of the threat posed by such liberties to children.
The welfare state is considered to be a vehicle for working-class emancipation, but, through the sinister concepts of “health education” and “health targets”, it is degenerating into a mere SWC exercise in social engineering. (And SWC-imposed political correctness has some peculiar results: smokers are now being discriminated against as potential adopters and fosterers, as are white people who want to adopt or foster black or mixed-race children, but homosexuals are being promoted up the adoption ladder.)
Once the smoking issue has served its purpose, namely that the SWC rather than mere people shall determine who may cohabit with whom, then other adoption (and in the long run, procreation) prohibition will follow. Improper eating and drinking will soon be included in such arrangements. After all, improper parentally influenced eating and drinking can be far more damaging to children than parental smoking.
Personally, I’m a health freak and a non-smoker. I jog and train in karate. In terms of physical lifestyle, I’m so correct it would make you sick. But I say that the SWC has yet again stepped way over the line with this proposed ban. If the rest of us let the SWC get away with this piece of child-snatching, the next batch of children in snatches willbe ours.
The question is: who is to organise family life? The SWC says: the SWC. I say: parents.