Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Smokers are Bad Parents, Period

"A cigarette is a pipe with a fire at one end and a fool at the other."

Author Unknown

This is a depressingly common sight around town in Kuching: an average salaryman puffing on a cigarette at a kopitiam (or coffee shop), not bothering to even leave his table to do so and remorselessly murdering his wife and young child softly with secondhand smoke.

Asshole Kuching Smoker
Behold, the common tobacco addict in his natural habitat.

I photographed the tragic scene above on a Sunday morning, two days ago at Dong Guan Food Court at the Central Park Commercial Centre at 3rd Mile. Now, some of you smokers reading this might self-righteously denounce the bloke in the picture and declare that you are one of them mythical "considerate and responsible smokers" who would never light up in front of pregnant women, children, babies or puppy dogs, and would always, always excuse yourself to smoke away from your beautiful families. You sincerely and naively believe that you are not contributing to the annual statistics of 600,000 murders of innocent inhalers of secondhand smoke. Well, I have news for you assholes: you are still a bad mother or father, and an award-winning terrible human being.

  • The children of parents who smoke are 2 to 3 times more likely than children of non-smokers to eventually pick up the habit of smoking.
  • Children of smokers are more than 2 times as likely as children of non-smokers to start smoking at a younger age (between 13 to 21 years old). This is important as early onset of initiation into cigarette smoking is found to cause stronger addiction to nicotine. Starting early and being strongly addicted meant that they will smoke more in the course of their lives, and we know that every stick of cigarette a person smokes reduces 11 minutes of his or her life.
  • If you smoked at any point in your life, your child is more likely to smoke even if you have stopped smoking before the kid is born. Surprise!

Even when you are not actively exhaling your noxious stupidity into your children's fresh little lungs, you are still encouraging them to take up tobacco smoking by choosing to continue pursuing your selfish, disgusting behaviour. They will then in turn go on to influence your grandchildren to smoke, and they too will influence their children and their children's children all the way down in a never-ending vicious cycle of bad parenting. That is the curse you choose to pass down to your descendants. That is your legacy.

Anyway, the irresponsible man who breathed cancer in his wife's and little boy's faces simply got rid of his cigarette butt after he was done by flicking it away like a booger he just excavated from his nostrils.

Asshole Kuching Litterbug
The tobacco addict littering the streets with his phallic oral fixation.

Regular litterbugs might do it when they think no one is looking, but smokers would shamelessly drop their cigarette butts wherever they like in full view of everybody. I'm sure we are all used to the sights of spent cigarette butts peppering our streets like the seasoning of our screaming lack of civic-mindedness but beside being an eyesore, improperly disposed stogies are serious fire hazards. Just last week, a man was arrested for setting a bus he was riding ablaze by smoking in the on-board toilet.

So to bring it all back home, if you are a smoker and have children, you are actively harming them even when you don't smoke anywhere near them. I just want you to know that. I want you to live with that.



A better father than he is,
k0k s3n w4i

8 comments:

Niek Beaujean said...

I just finished reading Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate", in which he argues that those studies showing that the children of smokers are more likely to smoke fail to account for any genetic or otherwise inborn tendencies.

What if the children of smokers are more likely to smoke because they are born from a genetic pool of people who are more likely to smoke?

What if a parent cannot 'save' their child by quiting smoking, or is not going to 'turn their child into a smoker' by continuing to smoke?

Imran Radzmi said...

"What if the children of smokers are more likely to smoke because they are born from a genetic pool of people who are more likely to smoke?"

Here are some possible follow ups that of course warrant further follow up:

i) There is an epigenetic mechanism that transfers affinity toward cigarettes to the child, some sort of genetic based operant conditioning. This would thus imply memory can be genetically transferred. Recognize that this is subtly different from the information or memory of say stressful environments related to glucocorticoid secretion linked to increase in anxiety or depressive symptoms or nutritional deficiency linked to obesity later on for the child. This is sensory information, including the qualia of craving itself. Otherwise how is the child to understand both the craving and resolution of nicotine unless he or she tried it in the first place?

ii) You need to show that there is a known genetic correlation with drug seeking behavior. There probably is a correlation, perhaps to do decreased density of dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens etc

iii) Is a child more likely to smoke if your parent smokes, even if it isn't in the presence of the child? In terms of environmental influence, a sort of didactic, or rather lack thereof

So clearly, to account for confounding factors, one would thus need to navigate the age old difficult territory of nature vs nurture, using for example samples of children from smoking parents, some of which have for some reason or another lived elsewhere to account for environmental factors

But, given all this and perhaps more. Why take the damn risk is the obvious question in my mind

Imran Radzmi said...

Oh i forgot to add. Regarding genetic propensity towards smoking. A vital nuance of inclination to START smoking versus inertia of the habit itself have entirely different genetic factors and i'd bet only the latter has been localized allele wise

Niek Beaujean said...

Please excuse the length of this comment.

"Epigenetics"
Testable by twin studies. Twins raised in separate homes should be more likely to smoke if their parents smoked.
It would be interesting to see the results.

"You need to show that there is a known genetic correlation with drug seeking behavior."
I'm not stating that there is a known genetic correlation. I'm suggesting that there *isn't* a known "children smoke because they are influenced by their parents' behaviour"-correlation.

Alternative #1) There could be a genetic influence. As you suggest, some people might be predisposed to addiction, in general or specifically nicotine. Also testable through twin studies. This may have been done, I'm not sure.

Alternative #2) There could be a social influence. Children don't (just) emulate their parents. As Pinker argues, children adopt the speech patterns of their friends, not of their parents, which is especially obvious in migrant families where children often speak with the accent of the locals without a trace of the parent accent. Children rarely find their parents' behaviour 'cool' and worthy of emulation.

Alternative #3) Sure, epigenetics. Though, if there's an epigenetic link, the risk of addiction is determined from the moment of conception or birth. Giving up smoking after this point won't reduce the risk.

"Why take the damn risk .."
We should find out what the risk is, and go from there.

I hate to fanboy the book, but here are a few thoughts from the book:
Pinker argues that the assumption that parents shape the child almost completely was invented to counter such things as sexism and racism. If people are born without innate traits, racism and sexism are completely illogical, or so the logic goes.
And so it became "moral" to believe that children are born as silly putty, waiting to be imprinted with personality traits. Boys become boisterous only because we set that example. All that.

But basing the idea of equality under the law on a theory of human nature that may not be true is dangerous. If new facts show that men and women are born with, on average, different traits, for example, the whole basis for treating people equally falls apart.

And, more directly related to this blog post, it is morally dangerous to blame parents for things they may not be able to control.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Niek Beaujean: I too have thought about the correlation between smoking parents and adolescent smoking, and how it might actually reflect a genetic propensity for addiction (and the study that showed that parents who stopped smoking before their children are born still appear to increase the rate of their offspring taking up the habit suggests that as well). I ultimately came to my decision to condemn smoking parents anyway based on some other ancillary studies I have read, but which I felt would crowd the message my post is trying to deliver if I had included them.

Consider this study into adolescents with step-families by Fidler et al which found that parental influences - biological or otherwise - increase the risk of smoking in adolescents. In fact, they found that smoking by step-parents is at least as influential as smoking by biological parents.

Aside from that, we also know that environmental factors (free from genetic influence) such as the social acceptance of smoking, public policies on smoking, graphic warning labels of cigarette packets, etc have all been shown to affect the prevalence of smoking and the number of people quitting. We also know that more affluent countries that have better education and have better anti-tobacco legislation in place show a falling rate of tobacco use - while it remains high and climbing in developing countries. Clearly (at least to me), cigarette smoking is a habit that have very strong environmental influences.

I think the mistake that most people make when going into a nature vs. nurture argument is that they do not recognise the fact that more often than not, behaviour is a complex product of both influences.

So, I don't believe that I have breached any standards of morality in demonising parents who smoke. A holistic look into tobacco literature suggests that, more likely than not, the correlation between parental tobacco use and adolescent smoking is more of a modifiable influence.

Imran Radzmi said...

"
"Epigenetics"
Testable by twin studies. Twins raised in separate homes should be more likely to smoke if their parents smoked.
It would be interesting to see the results"

What you speak of is simply the standard procedure to attempt to entangle genetic and POST-natal environmental factors, and given that one would naturally be using monozygotic twins, the null hypothesis would be regarding effect of post-natal environmental factors, i'm quite sure (though some uterine environments can differ even between monozygotic twins, for example concerning nutrition) as the twins will clearly be sharing the same environment in vivo for epigenetic changes to take place

"I'm not stating that there is a known genetic correlation. I'm suggesting that there *isn't* a known "children smoke because they are influenced by their parents' behaviour"-correlation."

Well, the first study Kok supplies does in fact allude to that, other than the firmly established fact of mimicry being prevalent during one's developmental years, from facial expressions to vocalization to postures down to actual acts such as preparing food or getting ready for work. Kok's followup link above regarding adoptive parents is further evidence.

From said study [the first link in the blog post itself] (of 564 adolescents):

"Offspring of parents who had quit smoking were no more likely to smoke than offspring of parents who had never smoked"

The third link Kok supplied of course says quite the opposite ; that those who quit before the child is born still seem to exact some form of increased incidence of smoking uptake on the next generation. That still in itself does not necessarily remove the ambiguity of nature vs nurture as the very act of knowing your parent once smoked can curtail guilt and justify "experimentation". On the other hand, it is possible there is a genetic basis for it, and perhaps most of the members in the earlier study just so happened to not carry an allele that is rare,for example perhaps due to some genetic variant of risk taking behavior (which has been shown to exist, a polymorphism on the 5-httlpr gene, to do with the serotonin transporter (SERT) ).

However, simply put, given that there IS evidence of non-genetic intergenerational proportional influence, whether or not there is an allele that increases desire to start smoking is just trivia

Imran Radzmi said...

"Pinker argues that the assumption that parents shape the child almost completely was invented to counter such things as sexism and racism. If people are born without innate traits, racism and sexism are completely illogical, or so the logic goes"

The view of that assumption that Pinker argues seems terribly outdated correct me if i'm wrong, quite strongly at odds with developmental psychology and behavioral genetics.

"But basing the idea of equality under the law on a theory of human nature that may not be true is dangerous. If new facts show that men and women are born with, on average, different traits, for example, the whole basis for treating people equally falls apart."

Non-equal treatment? That's equivocal. Dangerous? Could be beneficial as well. Depends on how it's done, depends on what your goals are. Also depends on what you mean by treating people equally. You could either mean not attempting to bridge or highlight differences in these traits or the complete opposite, that is of socially engineering institutions and policies to address these differences to accord to some basic standard of human decency (which is what is currently being done to some extent i'm sure you'll agree) .It would be dangerous to allow employment solely based on filling in politically correct gender based quotas for example but would you disagree to the government sponsored dispensation of pharmaceuticals and therapies to those with congenital diseases? Surely not? Or is eugenics the main path that we should eventually take?

"And, more directly related to this blog post, it is morally dangerous to blame parents for things they may not be able to control"

ONLY if there is no evidence of non-genetic influence, and there certainly is

Rewarp said...

Hey Sen Wai. I just found your dream anime episode on smokers.

http://www.crunchyroll.com/world-conquest-zvezda-plot/episode-3-hiding-behind-smoke-and-mirrors-649299?p480=1

For the record, I do agree that smokers are terrible human beings. If you need something in your mouth, try chewing flavoured toothpicks.