Why I Hate Smoking Parents

From my nursing days – a reason why I hate people who smoke around children

Eight year old girls don’t look like they are sleeping when they are dead.  At least not after over an hour of trying to save her life from an ultimately fatal asthma attack.

We were all distressed, she had been gasping for breath when the ambulance crew had ‘blued’ her straight into resus.  Asthma nebulisers hadn’t worked, and all you could fixate on was her chest desperately trying to pull air into her lungs.

So she died, a frightening and painful death.

The doctor and I went to tell her parents.  They were in the relatives room, I could barely see them as I walked in, the clouds of smoke filled the air.

They cried, of course they cried.

Then they went outside and have a cigarette.

Then they came back inside the resus room and sat with her body.

The father lit up another cigarette.


This is why I hate asthma, this is why I hate people who smoke when they are pregnant, this is why I hate people who smoke around children.  Kill yourself if you want to, but don’t kill your kids.

This is why I hate people who smoke around their asthmatic children or, if I mention that smoking aggravates asthma, they send them in their nightclothes to stand in sub-zero temperatures.

There are jobs that haunt you.  This was one of them.  Try calming down an eight year old girl who is dying in front of you because they can’t breathe.  Then try and forget about it.  I did a cot death once, beside the cot was a full ashtray.  Sure the parents are punished by the death of their child.  But it doesn’t help the child…

As I typed this I realised that I was clenching my teeth.

23 thoughts on “Why I Hate Smoking Parents”

  1. Second-hand smoke is a known asthma-trigger. Big, fat difference between behaving in a way calculated to cause your child to have an asthma attack she may die from and letting a kid drink a soda. Those parents probably triggered the asthma attack with their smoking. It's outrageous.My mother in law doesn't believe smoking is hazardous to health, either, which is why she won't see my kids on holidays. She refuses to order smokers to smoke outside. That's fine. It's her house. But every time my kid's asthma flares up he has to go on Prednisone. And his doctor said if there's a smoker in the family, he changes clothes in the garage. She doesn't want to tell the smokers to smoke on the porch, so she does without the company of my children on those days.

    The punch line? She's dying. Of emphysema.

  2. I hate asthma, too. Mainly because I've lived with it for 24 years though! See the same thing here, smoking while pregnant, smoking while holding their newborn…at least my asthma wasn't caused by inconsiderate and stupid parents.

  3. Often at work I think we need a Slap Room, where patients can be taken to one side and told “DON'T YOU SEE?”. Friction at the boundary where the grace of free healthcare at the point of need meets the person who doesn't acknowledge the consequences of actions. It's a shame that hate – well, let's call it extreme dislike at an unreasonable attitude – is the only response possible, as there is no mechanism in the NHS that allows an employee to cross that boundary. Unfortunately I also feel that way about my managers.

  4. I quite like this idea…Unfortunately you'd still be struggling against “that's *extreme* though, that's not what's normal” and “yeah but it won't happen to me” and “everybody's got to die of something” and “I don't do A, so I'm allowed to do B (and C and D and E and F)” as well as all the jumping up and down we saw in the alcohol discussions about scaremongering, nanny states, I know what's best for me/my family etc etc etc.

    At the end of the day I think giving the public information is all we can do – unfortunately it's too much to hope for some people that they'll ever take any of it on board.

  5. I have cousin in a police service, down your way. His description of his job is 'dealing with other people's stupidity'.I tried to comfort a young man in June. “I promised his dad I'd look after him” he muttered, but this didn't translate into not drinking and driving (allegedly) and now his 16yr old friend lay in bits across lane 2 of a motorway. (Case pending hence the 'allegedly').

  6. I read this blogfor the sake of humanity and reality and in a job i don't realy enjoy and would rather be out on the road doing what you do mate it sobers me up to what i could be doing as a job.I gave up smoking 5 years ago i don't have kids and have never smoked in the same room as children, the question is why?

    somethings we will never know the answers to


  7. Stupidity kills more often than malice. Willful stupidity is everyday evil.Natural selection is inevitable, as well.

    This is why I don't do pediatric nursing. Those nightmares would drive me mad.

  8. Your story moved me to tears and I cannot comprehend the utter, utter selfishness of some parents. Maybe we need to campaign for the outlawing of this lethal habit. A society is judged on how it treats (protects) its most vulnerable members and we are failing ours miserably. You have my admiration and my gratitude for the job that you do.

  9. It's the short-sightedness of these people. They REFUSE to see they played any part in a death. How can an addiction be so bad they are willing to see their own kin, their offspring they so much wanted to bring into this world as a bond between them, die a slow and painful death in front of them. They so wanted that child and then casually killed that very same product of their 'loving'. These people should have the ability to bear children removed.

  10. Do you also hate parents that feed their children junk food or food/drink full of artificial sweeteners? Surely they are being as “bad” as a smoking parent, encouraging the possible development of heart disease and cancer in their offspring?Yes I am a parent that smokes, although I must admit it's me that stands outside in the cold and wet definitely not my children (both were born at just under 9lb, and remain perfectly healthy).

    We all know that smoking (along with many other things) is bad for us but it is not the sole cause for the increase in childhood asthma and allergies. If it were then how is it that less people smoke but more people suffer from allergies and asthma than ever before?

  11. but the soda is sugar, fizz, artificial colourings, e-numbers… contributing to potential diabetes, obesity, digestive problems etc etc. Of course, not every kid who has soda gets those problems, well not every kid with a smoking parent gets asthma, and certainly not to the extent of dying from it.I think the point that was being made above is that not every kid who has asthma, has a smoking parent. Smoking is not the ONLY evil.

  12. Oh yes, absolutely. Compulsory sterilisation for those who may not raise totally healthy children, and bring them up on organic fruit, boiled rice and distilled water. What about the children they already have? Shall we put them in care, or just kill them in case they follow in their biological parent's footsteps?Obviously your point is the smokers aren't fit to raise kids, because a percentage of smokers' kids are more likely to get certain illnesses, and a percentage of people with those illnesses will die young.

    So also people on low incomes aren't fit to raise kids, because the kids of people on low incomes are more likely to get certain illnesses, and a percentage of those will die young…

    How about disabled people? People with a BMI over 25? People with a family history of heart disease or cancer or mental health problems or whatnot? A HIGH percentage of the offspring of those get ill and die young.

    I should think that by your lights it's downright irresponsible for any of those people to bring new lives into the world. How can it be a product of love, when they know they could be sentencing that child to a life of illness and a chance of dying young? By bringing the child into those risky circumstance they are “casually killing” it!

    Force the lot of them to have “the ability to bear children removed”?

    I think perhaps it might be saner and a little more sensible to simply educate people as best you can, give recommendations, hope that they pay attention, and let them do their own assessment of the risk involved for smoking, drinking, types of foods, places to live, speeds to drive at and so on.

  13. I stopped smoking 12 years ago, and I made a decision back then, that I would not become an anti-smoking Nazi like the majority of the other ex-smokers that I knew at the time.After reading that Tom, I wonder if I made the right decision.

  14. You're missing the point: Because these parents chose to smoke, they chose to trigger an asthma attack in their daughter, and she died. You can always quit soda, but an asthma attack is immediate.I'm sure the parents rationalized their smoking by saying, “Well, other parents let their kids have sodas, so we're no different.” Yes, they were. They might as well be using that kid as target practice.

    You said “potential diabetes,” and that's my point. There IS a way to responsibly allow a child a soda every now and again. There is NO way to responsibly smoke around a child — especially not an asthmatic child. These parents were selfish pigs, period.

    And don't go all disingenuous…smoking isn't the only asthma trigger. But if your child has asthma, you have a duty to make sure that you eliminate the triggers from her environment. Smoking is a big fat one. Smoking doesn't cause asthma, it just makes it worse.

  15. One cannot imagine the horror of having your child die before you, unless it's happened to you.But when all is said and done, smoking around children is STUPID. People who do it are actually either uninformed, or imbeciles (and yes it includes my mother and yes I do get on with her). Smoking around babies increases the risk of cot death immensely. This includes breathing on a baby for up to half an hour after the last cigarette, picking up a baby when you have smokey clothes or when you have smoked and not washed your hands.

    Smoking while pregnant is a direct contributor to poor placental function which leads to fetal distress, low birthweight babies (and no, this is not a good thing, they aren't easier to push out, they still have the same head circumference but they have skinny bodies because they are compromised and can't get enough oxygen to help them grow), placental abruption and stillbirth and neonatal death, and distress in labour. Great start to life, that is.

    Fucking hate it. And if people say 'yeah, but I know XYZ who smoked and their kids are all fine', I would reply 'but how do you know they are fine? How do you know they won't develop asthma at 10; I did?' and also:

    Try saying that smoking doesn't hurt people to the parents of children who die in house fires from cigarette ends; to the parents of children who die of respiratory diseases or SIDS as a direct result of passive smoking, and to the family of Roy Castle who died of lung cancer brought on by passive smoking, when he had never smoked a cigarette in his life.

  16. But Claire said her kids were healthy, and that she didn't smoke around them, and that smoking wasn't the only potentially harmful thing that parents had been known to do to their children without malicious intent.That's not saying it's okay to smoke around asthmatic children, or any other children – just that smokers are not the root of *all* evil.

    I think it's a tad out of line that you can look at two people whose circumstances you know nothing about and define them both as “selfish pigs, period”. I accept it as a possibility but it may be a bit more complicated than that.

  17. Can't agree that with those that say this should be handled sensitively. Those parents should be taken into the room with their daughter's body, and told, as plainly as this “You killed your daughter with your smoke. Your daughter would be alive if you had not smoked”. Then they should be charged with manslaughter.No, I'm not very sympathetic.

  18. “I think it's a tad out of line that you can look at two people whose circumstances you know nothing about and define them both as “selfish pigs, period”. I accept it as a possibility but it may be a bit more complicated than that.”You're quite right, these are two individuals whom we don't know personally. In fact all we really know about them is that they both choose to smoke, presumably for personal satisfaction, despite knowing the potential heath risks that they are exposing their children to.

    Murderers? A tad harsh, Selfish Pigs? I can't see a better way to describe them.


  19. ok, well the first “for instance what if…” that springs to mind is, what if Parent A did try to give up smoking, or started to only smoke outside, but Parent B continued to smoke in the house and tell Parent A that he/she was being stupid, believing scaremongering and so on? It's damn near impossible to give up smoking while living with a smoker.That would make Parent B extremely selfish, stubborn, whatever you like, but Parent A no worse than lacking in self-esteem and willpower, and trust me that's only too common in relationships.

    Then add in whatever extraneous circumstances you like… I remember a friend of mine, had severe depression (in and out of mental health services), was a smoker, then a close relative died, and she asked her doctor for advice on stopping smoking and the doctor advised that, while it was a very good idea generally, she'd prefer my friend to wait a month or two for things to settle before attempting it as it may cause too much stress for her, in her situation, and with her family support being upset themselves, to deal with.

    Of course the couple in question may have had none of this. My point is simply that we don't know and we shouldn't judge.

  20. I was once sat in a pub with my dad and he pointed a woman out to me. She was sat at the bar, cigarette and pint in one hand while the other was lovingly caressing her heavily pregnant stomach.

  21. And of course we all know that NOTHING triggers asthma attacks except cigarettes. Not pets, pollens, emotional anxiety, weather conditions, foods, molds, or infections..JUST cigarettes.And since her parents smoked it MUST have been the smoke. What hatred of people you don't even know. Do you also assume that ifa black person comes in shot it MUST have been a drive-by and they are dope dealers? And of course if a Muslim was in the same area as a place that blew up, well this guy is DEFINITELY the guilty party. Of course, if someone gets AIDS we know they are DEFINITELY gay. Boy, with this kind of logic, we don't even need courts! We just look around the scene of the crime and the person most likely to have caused is definitely the guilty party. We don't even need to ask and be sure! And it would sure loosen up our police force, no need to find the murderer, just find the most likely suspect and that is definitely the one!

    I'm more concerned with your preemptive hatred than I am with judging people I don't know. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, the sad thing is none of you will be. You're too busy judging others to see how disgusting your own behavior is.

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