Mother banned by US judge from smoking at home

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The Independent US

The social stigma of smoking has been reinforced in the United States where a judge has banned a mother from smoking in her own home because her son, who lives with his father and visits occasionally, doesn't like the smell. Nor will she be allowed to smoke in her car.

The ruling, delivered by Justice Robert Julian of the New York State Supreme Court, is unprecedented in America, because the 13-year-old boy does not suffer from asthma or any other medical condition that could be aggravated by cigarette smoke. It represents another victory for the anti-smoking lobby.

Judge Julian ordered the boy's mother, identified as Johnita D of Utica, in upstate New York, to stop smoking in her home and in her car as a condition of continued overnight visits from her son, Nicholas D. The judge cited medical research detailing the hazards of second-hand smoke.

"Even though Nicholas does not presently have asthma, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke apparently significantly increases his risks of developing, either as a child or as an adult, coronary artery disease, lung cancer and certain chronic respiratory diseases," the judge wrote in his ruling.

Courts in several other US states have barred adults from smoking in their homes in recent years but only where children are involved with diagnosed illnesses.

Nicholas's legal guardian, William Koslosky said the boy, who is in excellent health, told him last August that he didn't want to visit his mother because she smokes.

"The boy had a really difficult time visiting with the mom for many different reasons, but one of the prime reasons was the smoking," the lawyer said. "Nicholas was ashamed of his mother's smoking. He said his mother's house reeked."

Smokers in the United States are increasingly being made to feel as if they are pariahs. While they vary significantly from state to state, laws are being passed at break-neck speed to discourage smoking in public places. Among the most strict is California, which has banned smoking in all indoor public places, including bars. In some towns, smoking is also banned in public parks and on pavements.

It never seemed possible, however, that those with the habit would be barred from lighting up in their own front room or behind the wheel of their car. Indeed, the time may come when it will be easier in America to keep a gun under the pillow than a packet of cigarettes in a kitchen drawer.

Joan Shkane, the mother's lawyer, denounced Judge Julian's ruling as intrusive. Ms Shkane said she didn't know if they would appeal, but her client has been given 30 days to comment on the ruling before it comes into force.

Just how the court expects to monitor the mother, who is a 20-a-day smoker, is not clear. Presumably, it will be left to the boy to report her to the courts if he smells tobacco smoke.

"Are we opening the door to urine tests now?" Ms Shkane said, referring to the judge's ruling. "Will he be allowed to take air samples before the child visits?"

Nicholas's mother said she suspected the complaint was a ruse by the boy's father to obstruct her visitation rights. "I don't smoke when he's there, in the house or the car," she said. "When I want a cigarette, I go out on my balcony."