He said, she said – Should pregnant women smoke?

Photo by Dr Jaul - Flickr.com
Photo by Dr Jaul – Flickr.com

She said – By Ellen Jones.

I’ve spent 27 months of my life being pregnant. If it was just 27 months of feeling nauseous and looking like a beached whale, I probably wouldn’t have had such a bad time. But by far the worst thing about being pregnant is that, everywhere you go, someone has something to say about what you’re doing, eating, drinking, wearing or thinking. Here a few examples:

On soft drink: “Are you sure you should be drinking that?”

On dancing with your friends: “Won’t the baby go deaf from the loud music?”

On coffee: “I got you a decaf.” (I didn’t order decaf.)

On high heels: “They will throw your pelvis out of line and make it difficult for you to have a natural birth.” (WTF? I remembered that one fondly as my third child flew across the delivery room.)

On working: “The stress won’t be good for your baby.” (Neither will being unable to afford groceries, but anyway.)

All of this and I was a good pregnant lady. I quit smoking, ate well and resisted the temptation to go bungee jumping or take up a new career as a niche market stripper.

My point, insofar as this relates to media personality Chrissie Swan being caught sneaking a fag recently, is that we tend to feel we have a right to judge pregnant women in a way we don’t feel in relation to anyone else. And there’s a slippery slope between getting on one’s high horse about smoking while pregnant and snatching a latte out of your knocked-up colleague’s hand because your Aunt Ethel reckons caffeine increases the risk of being born with a third nipple.

smoking 2
Photo by Toni Blay – flickr.com

There is a place for pregnant women to have guilt-inducing conversations with judgemental spoilsports. That place is a doctor’s office or midwife’s clinic, not down the street with a friend of a friend or on the Internet with some smug troll. That conversation should involve scientific facts, not hysterical moralising.

It’s good for families and society at large if pregnancies are healthy and babies get the best possible start to life. The way to achieve that is not to have Joe Average slinging mindless mud at women who are already enduring an enormous amount of physical and emotional stress. Excellent health starts with excellent education and support, so let’s put some tax dollars where our judgemental mouths are and leave it to the professionals.


He said – By Jordan White

Recently, there’s been some controversy because the host of Can of Worms was photographed smoking whilst pregnant. Ironically, this has ignited a fair bit of debate about what a woman can and can’t do with her body.

Now, I’m fairly reluctant to join the long list of males who have unwittingly expressed a controversial opinion about women’s rights and gone on to regret it for a very, very long time – for example, Tony Abbott’s comments and actions in relation to the abortion drug RU-486. However, I can never resist a good debate, so I figured I’d throw my two cents (or less) worth into the mix.

Personally, I tend to believe that what anyone wants to do with their body is their own decision. That’s why I don’t have a problem with tattoos, drug use, abortions or piercings. However, I also feel that if you’re committing yourself to the development of a new life, then you’re morally obliged to do everything in your power to ensure its well-being – like giving up smoking.

I’m not really sure if that’s in line with the rest of the community’s opinions (and there’s a comment section below where you’re welcome to share your own), but it seems to make sense. With that said, though, I don’t think there should be negative consequences if you slip up, as Chrissie Swan appears to have done. This is for three reasons.

Firstly, this is highly impractical. What exactly are we going to do about this? Should we send her to jail? Or sentence her to community service – because, you know, new mothers don’t have enough to do already. And what exactly constitutes an offence? Are they allowed to drink, but not smoke? Or is it quantity? What about exposing your baby to passive smoke? It’s difficult, if not impossible, to draw a line.

Secondly, even if this is a textbook case – you know, she’s a pack a day smoker, and therefore hardened and emotionless about what she’s doing to her baby – why should she be subject to legal issues? She has a problem, an addiction, a disease – and regardless of whether that’s impacting upon another person as well (in this case, an unborn person, but whatever, this isn’t an abortion debate), it’s still having a negative impact upon the mother in question. She’s as much a victim here as the baby, really.

Photo by Stefan Zabunov – flickr.com

Thirdly, I don’t think it’s actually the most effective way to do this. Some kind of legal punishment, whilst powerful, won’t actually guarantee that the problem will be fixed – whereas counselling and support from the health sector might.

In summary, whilst I think that smoking whilst pregnant is most definitely a Bad Idea, I don’t think that community retribution is necessarily the best way to go about things.


Category: NationalOpinion


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