WASHINGTON — Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders on Thursday urged parents who smoke to seek help in quitting or to indulge their habit outside their homes and cars, saying: "Your children are the innocent victims of your addictions."
Lending her support to a new national campaign against the dangers of secondhand smoke to young children, Elders acknowledged that cigarette smoking is a tough addiction to break. But she pleaded with parents to think about the health consequences of their smoking on their offspring.
"We, as adults, have a choice," she said. "But our children have no choice."
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen, meaning it is known to cause cancer in humans. Moreover, children's exposure to environmental smoke is known to cause lower respiratory infections, ear, nose and throat problems and potentially serious complications in those suffering from asthma.
Walker Merryman, vice president of the Tobacco Institute, which represents the industry, agreed that "everyone is and should be concerned with the health and well-being of children," and that smoking parents "may want to exercise common sense about smoking in front of their children in the same way they use common sense about other exposures and activities."