Category Archives: smoking around kids

Ah, the good ol’ days, when people really smoked around babies


I normally try to stay clear from partisan politics here, but here is a funny video from about Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again.”

In the video, two women dressed in 1950s pearls and hoop skirts sing about the good ol’ days of sexual harassment, domestic abuse, segregation, date rape and the days, “before we even knew that gays had rights.”

What cracked me up is later in the video, they’re both smoking around a baby. Yeah, the good ol’ days, when millions of parents smoked around their kids and gave their kids asthma, ear infections and upper respiratory infections from their omnipresent secondhand smoke. You youngins today might not believe it, but this was absolutely normal back then. It just boggles my mind today what people did to their kids 50, 60 years ago.

As an aside, I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually witnessed someone smoking around a child. It’s been at least five or six years. I remember it clearly, it was in a car parked in a parking lot of a mini-mart, a couple of idiots in the front seat smoking with a toddler strapped in his child seat in the back. I just wanted to slap those people.

So, that’s pretty good in that I personally haven’t seen anything like that in at least five or six years. But, they’re still out there — those idiots, but they’re pretty few and far between. The vast majority of smokers today know full well not to smoke around their — or other people’s — kids.

Here’s the video. Again, as usual, enjoy it while you can, because I never know when YouTube is going to take these things down:




Robot Chicken spoofs smoking in cartoons

robot chicken 3
Robot Chicken spoofing an old Flintstones commercial for cigarettes.

Saw a really funny Robot Chicken episode on Adult Swim Sunday night poking fun at tobacco use among kids’ cartoon characters.

Being Robot Chicken, it was  a bit demented, but still funny. The skit shows Fred Flintstone, Olive Oyl and Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland all in a hospital ward dying of lung disease. And the Pink Panther is also shown coughing and wheezing after taking a drag on his cigarette (Remember, the Pink Panther smoked, too.).

robot chicken 9

The Pink Panther has emphysema. Fred, who once actually was used by Winston cigarettes as a spokesman, is dying and is forced to use an electronic voice box. I cracked up at one of the comments on the YouTube video of the old Flintstone’s 1961 Winston commercial. A YouTube user said she had no idea there was a Flintstone’s cigarette ad until she saw the Robot Chicken skit.


robot chicken 5
Popeye smokes in the lung disease ward

Olive Oyl has lung disease from secondhand smoke from Popeye’s pipe and Caterpillar, who famously smoked a hookah in the 1950s Disney cartoon, is dying of lung cancer. In the Disney cartoon, in fact, not only did the Caterpillar smoke, he smoked around children and blew cigarette smoke right into Alice’s face. Alice didn’t cough or wheeze from it in the slightest. Jesus.

alice cigarette smoke
Alice having smoke blown in her face by the Caterpillar in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”

Popeye walks into the hospital ward and lights up his pipe, prompting a coughing fit from Olive Oyl. Barnie Rubble makes fun of Fred’s voice, then lights one of his Winstons near Fred’s oxygen tank, blowing them all up.

robot chicken 1


It’s demented fun, but the skit makes the point that there was a shocking amount of smoking in kids’ cartoons — Pinocchio, Goofy, Tom and Jerry all smoked. In fact, there continued to be a lot of smoking in kids’ cartoons right up until the early 2000s in Hiyao Miyazaki movies like “Spirited Away.”  For some reason, Miyazaki always seems to include a lot of smoking in most of his anime films.

Here is the Robot Chicken skit:

Flintstones cigarette commercial:

Pink Panther smoking:

Popeye smoking:

The Caterpillar smoking:




Childhood exposure to secondhand smoke raises risk for COPD among smoking adults

This is totally not Shutterstock.

An interesting study about the longterm effects of secondhand smoke on children suggests that children exposed to cigarette smoking from their mothers are more likely to develop COPD as adults if they end up smoking themselves.

In this survey from Australia, it was found that smokers were nearly three times as likely to develop COPD if they were exposed to their mother’s secondhand smoke as a child … if their mother smoked a pack a day or more.


On this article from MedPage Today:

“While the potential as a COPD risk factor for adult offspring has not been comprehensively documented, our study suggests that the early life exposure to maternal smoking may increase an individual’s susceptibility to the harms of personal smoking in later life,” the researchers wrote. “Identifying those most at risk might provide an opportunity for a more individualized approach to the prevention of COPD.”

“Maternal smoking adversely affects the ventilatory function of offspring, including neonates, infants, children and adolescents,” they wrote. “The idea that maternal smoking exposure might predispose to COPD in later life appears largely based on these pediatric studies, and of the few adult studies, only one examined pre-bronchodilator (BD) spirometry as a categorical outcome.”

“This study provides further evidence for mother’s smoking to influence the lung function in children when measured in middle-age,” she noted, adding that they also reinforce public health messages warning pregnant women and mothers with children in the home not to smoke.


This study just talks about smoking by mothers. It doesn’t discuss both parents. My parents smoked six packs a day between them (no exaggeration, they really did), and I worry to this day about the longterm damage done to my lungs the first 15 years of my life. However, I’ve never smoked, so I’m hoping my personal risk of developing COPD is pretty minimal.

It just shows to me how the damage done by cigarette smoking gets passed down from one generation to another, both by setting an example to smoke and by all the physical, longterm damage done to kids’ bodies. This has been going on for generation after generation for over 100 years.

This post isn’t intended to spit on smokers. I know people didn’t know better 30 or 40 years ago. At least today, the vast majority of smokers know better than to smoke around their kids.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen someone smoking around kids in the past five years.

The researchers state more study needs to be done (I hope any further study also look at the smoking by both parents).


Study: Kids’ exposure to secondhand smoke raises danger of heart disease as adults


A study recently released out of Finland suggests that secondhand smoke not only damages lung health around kids, it damages their circulatory system to the point of raising the risk of heart disease when they are adults.

What researchers found in this 20-year study is that kids exposed to nicotine from their parents’ smoking tend to have an added build-up of carotid plaque in their blood vessels as adults — the kind of plaque that causes heart disease.

Just more fuel to the fire about the damage down by secondhand smoke, especially to kids. Secondhand smoke has been shown to cause and worsen lung and bronchial infections, aggravate asthma, cause ear infections among children and even increase the risk of sudden-death syndrome. There are still people claiming secondhand smoke doesn’t kill or even harm anyone (Libertarian stooge John Stossel comes to mind), but those voices have grown more and more quiet over the past 10 years since I’ve been involved in the tobacco control debate. They were pretty loud ten years ago, but nobody listens to them anymore, just like most everyone stopped listening 30 years ago to those people still trying to claim smoking didn’t give smokers lung cancer.

Heart disease and blood vessel plaque buildup … you can add to the afflictions caused by secondhand smoke.

I once did a little math exercise that really scared me. You’re going to find this number hard to believe, but bare with me … it is a shocking number.

I estimate that for the first 16 years of my life, my parents smoked between them roughly five to six packs a day. To be conservative, let’s call that 100 cigarettes a day. Say, I was exposed to their smoking for 8 hours of the day — one-third of that 100 — that’s 33 cigarettes a day. Say, I actually ingested 10 percent of their smoke into my lungs — that’s 3.3 cigarettes a day.

That’s 3.3 cigarettes a day, 365 days a year, for 16+ years. That comes out to the equivalent of roughly 20,000 cigarettes. So I estimate that just from my parents alone, not counting my brother and sister who smoked, not counting all of my parents’ friends who smoked — and they pretty much all did — I breathed in the equivalent smoke of 20,000 cigarettes from the time I was a baby in a crib to until I was  16. My dad died when I was 16, so that number probably dropped off afterward. 20,000 cigarettes in my still developing lungs. No wonder I had such bad bronchitis as a teenager, no wonder I had chronic problems with bronchitis until I turned 30.

And now it makes me wonder whether it’s going to catch up with me with heart disease. I’ve already had one circulatory system scare.

I’m not bitter or angry at my parents about it and I hope I don’t come off like a whiner — it’s just that that 20,000 figure continues to blow me away. They didn’t know (though, without trying to sound bitter about it, I will always wonder why the thought never seemed to cross their minds that all that smoke might not be good for their kids. My mom loves to tell a story about how they had to leave Canada because it was so cold and her husband and my brother had pneumonia because of the cold. Cold weather doesn’t cause pneumonia. I have to bite my tongue every time she tells that story, because I want to say to her, “Mom, it wasn’t the cold weather that was giving dad and the kids pneumonia, it was probably the cigarettes more than anything …” But, to keep the peace, I never come out and say that.)

Anyway, most smokers know better today. I wish 100 percent of smokers knew better, but I still shake my head at the nitwits who in this day and age still smoke around kids. I bend over backward not to pass judgement on smokers, except when I see people smoking in a car with kids or otherwise blowing smoke in kids’ faces. Then I have a hard time not glaring.

England set to ban smoking in cars with kids


Wow, just looking at this photo pisses me off


This is an issue I haven’t heard as much lately. It was starting to become a big deal in a lot of states two or three years ago.

England (not the United Kingdom, just England), is set to ban smoking in vehicles with children. So far, seven states (California, Oregon, Vermont, Arkansas, Utah, Louisiana, Maine) and Puerto Rico have all banned smoking in cars with kids (though I’m a little annoyed that the age limit in Arkansas is 6 and in Vermont it’s 8 — so it’s OK to subject 7- and 9-year-old kids to cigarette smoke in cars?

Most Canadian provinces and Australian states have also banned smoking in cars with kids, as well as a few other countries, including South Africa. A few U.S. cities have banned it, too.


English MPs voted 367-107 recently to create the new law. It still needs to go through a few hoops to become law, which will likely happen in 2015. According to the Guardian article I linked to, that is a larger margin than the vote to impose a smoking ban on bars and restaurants in England.

According to the Guardian article:

The public appears to back the ban. In March, a YouGov poll for the anti-smoking group ASH found that 77% of adults, including 64% of those who smoke, supported the criminalisation of smoking in cars carrying anyone under 18.

A few years ago, I was a bit dubious about the idea of smoking bans in cars, it smelled a bit like too much government overreach, but the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with these laws. Look, if you’re too damned stupid to realize just how damaging it is to kids’ respiratory systems to subject them to cigarette smoke in a vehicle (even with the windows rolled down), maybe you need the embarrassment of being pulled over and paying a $75 fine for your sheer stupidity. To me, it’s no different from parents being pulled over for their kids not being in their seatbelts. Maybe for stupid people, a ticket and lecture from a cop is the only way for them to start giving it some thought. To me, smoking in cars with kids borders on genuine child abuse (I remember how much my eyes and throat and nose would burn on trips with my chain-smoking parents.).

It’s too bad that the momentum for these common-sense laws has stalled. The country’s lurched to the right, and no one likes new rules and regulations, especially a regulation essentially telling stupid parents how to act around their kids. I get that.

I bend over backward not to make smokers self-conscious with my views about tobacco; no matter how hard I try, a number of smokers get defensive with me. I get that, too. Smokers are social pariahs, they have to put up with dirty looks and people fake-coughing all the time.

However, that being said, the ONLY smokers I am down on are the stupid smokers who light up around kids, ESPECIALLY in cars. At least two or three times a year, I still see people smoking in cars with kids, usually with the windows rolled up. And it always leaves me livid when I see it.


When I became militant about cigarettes


This image I saw from Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reminds me of a story. I pinpoint it to the day I became militant about smoking.

I grew up around smoking. I breathed six packs a day worth of secondhand smoke from my parents (dad — 4 packs a day, mom — 2 packs a day). I remember whining to them about how much their smoking was bothering me in the car, and I was told “just roll down the window.” They didn’t want to hear it. I remember how bad their smoke was in the RV all night when we went camping.

Well, sure enough, I had a ton of ear infections as a kid. Had to have surgery on my ears because of the ear infections, probably caused by my parents’ smoking. In my early teens I started getting bronchitis all the time. By the time I hit college age, any head cold would immediately migrate to my chest and it would turn into 6 weeks of coughing. Twice in my 20s, I came down with pneumonia (and one time pleurisy). Only at the age of 29 did I finally grow out of that annual cycle of bronchitis and 6-8 weeks every winter of nonstop coughing.

Anyway, this brings me to Vic’s Drive Inn in Friday Harbor, Wash. Vic’s was a smoking joint, and in fact, I never sat down in Vic’s as a result. The smoke was SO thick in that place that one time I walked in just to grab a pickup order and walked back to work and everyone made fun of me because I reeked of smoke. I was in the building for less than 10 minutes. It was so bad, I went home and changed.

So, this one other time I walked into Vic’s, there was a fisherman sitting at a table (Friday Harbor was once a fishing town — no more, the fishing industry was in its dying throes at the time), puffing away on his cigarette with about a two-year-old boy sitting in his lap, coughing his head off and bawling. It just made me livid. The kid obviously had a respiratory infection, and there’s dad sitting 12 inches away literally blowing cigarette smoke in his face. Boy, I’m a big believer in not giving smokers shit, but I gave that guy a good glaring. What an asshole, I thought. What a self-centered idiot. It just brought back all my memories of those awful trips in the car and awful nights in the RV around a haze of cigarette smoke, and awful nights with burning eyes and a burning throat. I literally felt like punching the moron. I was really, really furious. I have never been so angry at a smoker.

Vic’s — an icon in Friday Harbor, Washington

Instead, years later, I decided to blog about tobacco and to try and be a bit more constructive. Like I said, i will never forget that day, or that kid, or how amazingly stupid that guy was being. This would have been sometime in the mid-1990s.

(As an aside, Vic’s Drive Inn was sold a couple of years after that, and the new owners made it smokefree. I did a big article on it at the time. They said they lost a few customers, but gained a lot more than they lost. Washington went smokefree about 10 years ago and smoking restaurants went away.)


Study: Large amount of secondhand smoke causes miscarriages, stillbirths in pregnant women

pregnant woman

A really eye-opening study done in Buffalo shows that pregnant women who inhale a lot of secondhand smoke have a higher incidence of stillbirths, ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages than women who do not.

It’s long been known that smoking is bad for pregnant women and their babies, but this is the first study I’ve seen showing how secondhand smoke is damaging to pregnant women and their babies. Really powerful study.

This story will sure to make the smokers’ rights’ crowd go nuts. I haven’t tangled with that crowd in a long time, but one of their loudest arguments — in complete defiance of absolute reams of studies stating otherwise — is that secondhand smoke is essentially harmless and all the studies stating otherwise were just “junk science.” A lot of people actually listened to these people 10-15 years ago, but they don’t have much of an audience anymore.

These people are just like global warming denialists and people who denied for decades that smoking causes lung cancer.  The study compared populations of women who were exposed to secondhand smoke before and during their pregnancies to women who were never exposed to secondhand smoke.

According to the conclusions:

For nonsmoking women exposed to the highest levels of secondhand smoke, the study reported a 17 percent higher risk of miscarriage, a 55 percent higher risk for stillbirth and a 61 percent higher risk of ectopic pregnancy, a complication when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus.

Those risks approached the risks seen among women who smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, the researchers said.

The highest level of lifetime secondhand smoke exposure was defined by childhood exposure for longer than 10 years, adult home exposure for more than 20 years and adult work exposure for more than 10 years.

Some of those numbers are pretty startling — a 55 percent increase in stillbirths. Christ, if you gotta smoke, go ahead and smoke, just don’t smoke around kids … or pregnant women. Please, just don’t.

“The significance of the study is that it shows that secondhand smoke is more harmful than previously thought, not just during pregnancy but over a woman’s lifetime,” said Vince Willmore, vice president for communications at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C.

“Hopefully, information like this will encourage people who smoke to be more sensitive about smoking in the house,” said Gary Giovino, chairman of the University at Buffalo’s Department of Community Health and Health Behavior.


Good news everyone … teen smoking reported at lowest point ever

professor farnsworth

This is such good news, I’m actually having difficulty believing it at face value. (Too good to be true syndrome…).

According to a federal study (called the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics), the rate of teen smoking has dropped dramatically from 18 percent in the 1990s to 5 percent in 2012. That’s how many high school sophomores smoked a cigarette daily in the past 30 days.

Wow, 5 percent. That teen smoking rate was stubbornly stuck at 15 to 25 percent for 10 years, long after Joe Camel was forced into retirement … mostly because the tobacco industry was still finding subtle ways to market cigarettes to kids, and mostly because Hollywood stubbornly continued to show smoking in a “cool” light.


Numbers have also dropped for high school seniors and 8th graders.

“According to the report, 2 percent of 8th-graders, and 9 percent of high school seniors said they smoked daily in 2012. Compare that data to the survey’s peak smoking years in the mid-1990s, when those numbers were 10 percent for 8th graders, 18 percent for high school sophomores and 25 percent for high school seniors.”

This has really been my No. 1 priority personally over the last 10 years I’ve been into this issue … somehow finding a way to get fewer kids to start up smoking. Just telling them it’s bad for them doesn’t do it.

Not sure why those numbers are so dramatic, but I would give some credit to cigarette taxes and the cost of cigarettes going way up in the last 20 years. $6 for a pack in most places, compared to about $3 a pack 20 years ago. I also think less smoking in movies plays a role (no pun intended.).

The other good news, and a bit more scientific (this first study was based on surveys among kids, which has its merits), is that fewer kids are being exposed to secondhand smoke.

LA Times:

The percentage of nonsmoking kids ages 4 to 11 whose blood had a detectable level of cotinine, a breakdown product of nicotine, fell from 53% to 42% from 2007-08 to 2009-10.”

That’s the result of fewer people smoking overall and more smoking bans.

Kids’ ear infections drop dramatically — partly because of drop in smoking

Fascinating story I read yesterday.

Health officials report that over the last 15 years, ear infections among children have dropped a whopping 30 percent. Wow!

One of the reasons ear infections have dropped so much is believed to be a concurrent drop in smoking (other factors are mentioned, but I believe the drop in smoking is a big one.). Not only are fewer people smoking, but more people who do smoke have bought a clue about not smoking around their kids.

I had constant ear infections as a kid, and still have problems with my ears today. I had my tonsils taken out, adenoids removed, tubes put in my ears. Didn’t do any good. Because back then, people didn’t make the connection between secondhand smoke and ear infections in kids. (Though I still shake my head that my parents could never figure out that their six packs a day were contributing to my chronic bronchitis.)

It’s pretty much taken as fact now, except by the weasels, that secondhand smoke is a huge contributor to kids’ ear infections. This article explains the mechanism pretty well. Kids get ear infections often times after colds and flus, because the lining in ear tissue would become inflamed. Inflamed tissue then would become more easily infected.

Well, cigarette smoke causes the same kind of tissue inflammation in kids’ ears as colds and flus, making kids more vulnerable to infections.

According to the CDC, about 88 percent of nonsmokers (including children) were being exposed to other people’s cigarette smoke in 1990. That figure dropped to 40 percent in 2007.