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Smokers losing child custody cases a growing trend  

Jump to full article: Washington Times, 2012-02-21
Author: Legally Speaking by Myra Fleischer


States are increasingly factoring in cigarette smoking in making decisions about who gets custody of minor children. The group Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-tobacco advocacy group, surveyed custody issues involving cigarettes and tobacco use.

* In at least 18 states, courts have ruled that subjecting a child to tobacco smoke is a factor which should be considered in deciding custody.

* No judge and no court has ever ruled that subjecting a child to tobacco smoke should be ignored in deciding custody.

* In thousands of cases, courts have issued orders prohibiting smoking in the presence of a child, especially in vehicles.

* In some cases the orders prohibit smoking in a home 24 (or even 48) hours before the child arrives.

* In some cases, parents have lost custody or had visitation reduced because they subjected a child to tobacco smoke. . . .

An upstate New York judge ordered a woman to stop smoking in her home and in her car if she wanted to maintain her visitation rights with her 13-year-old son, who lives with his father.

In a Georgia case, the mother was addicted to smoking and after divorce it was found that her child had asthma. The court found that this mother was smoking in the presence of her child, which it said implied that she had insufficient concern for her child. This reason was considered strong enough for a change in custody.

Just as you don't want your child endangering his well-being by reckless behavior such as riding a bicycle into traffic, secondhand smoke's effects are by now well known and a legitimate concern for parents. Courts are sympathetic to this concern, especially if a child already has respiratory problems or allergies . . .

Maybe losing custody of your children should be added to the warnings on packs of cigarettes. It might finally motivate many smokers to kick the habit.

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