Secondhand Cigarette Smoke as a Form of Child Abuse

Secondhand Cigarette Smoke as a Form of Child Abuse

When considering the term child abuse, several horrible situations come to mind. Mostly our understanding of child abuse stems from concepts of physical harm and violence toward the child, as well as emotional and psychological abuse situations. What you may not know is how some adult behaviors, which seem rather innocuous, are being considered by the courts as a type of child abuse. With the significant push toward mainstreaming anti-cigarette sentiment, smoking in a front of a child is never the first initial thought when considering child abuse allegations. However, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure have had such deleterious effects against children and in particular newborns that it has risen in the ranks as a danger and harm of a child, as well as a factor considered in child custody cases.

The Impact of SHS On Children in the Car and at Home

According to a study published by The American Journal of Public Health, the deleterious impact of secondhand smoke (SHS) was assessed in the situation where the child was exposed while at home and in the car. Though public venues and establishments have banned smoking within their walls, children are still inhaling cigarette smoke while at home and while in the car with their smoking parent. Not only is cigarette smoking hazardous to one’s health, SHS itself is a source of more than 50 carcinogens. For newborns and young children, SHS has had a significant impact on their developing organs and is the source of developed syndromes such as infant death syndrome, asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

South Carolina’s War on Second-Hand Smoke

South Carolina is one of many states that have actively fought to include several bills into their books to curb SHS near or around children. One of the bills enacted included a section that made it unlawful for an occupant of a vehicle to smoke tobacco in the car in the presence of a child 10 or younger.

Within the family law context, cigarette smoking and secondhand effects may be considered in a custody proceeding. This is because South Carolina is one of several states to permit, when assessing the factors surrounding the child custody arrangement, the evaluation of cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke as a factor.

South Carolina Child Custody Factors

In general, when determining child custody, courts look to the best interests of the child and evaluate the following:

  • The relationship between the child and the parents
  • The ability of the parents to collaborate and make decisions together
  • The mental, physical, emotional health of each parent
  • The ability of the parent to raise the child with the best interest of the child in mind
  • The child’s preference in the custodial arrangement

Secondhand smoke, based on the detrimental findings of the deleterious effects that cigarette smoke has on a younger child’s development, is considered a significant factor to assess, and could be the tipping point in the determination of child custody. Even with the argument that it is a person’s right to consume a legal substance, there are no protections for the right to expose your child to secondhand smoke; as such, courts are willing to make custody decisions based on the prevalence of smoking within the household, especially when the child is still a newborn or a toddler and at the cusp of development.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in Mount Pleasant, Charleston Area

Whether you need assistance in your divorce or child custody proceedings, or simply have questions about the process, don’t hesitate to contact the attorney at the Klok Law Firm LLC. We serve clients in the Mount Pleasant, Charleston area and are prepared to assist you today.