Parental Responsibility and Smoking

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Parental Responsibility and Smoking Perhaps one of the most explosive public issues, with distinct moral dimensions, is what parents are responsible for in their children’s behavior, including health-impeding ones such as smoking, drinking, and other matters. Although in some states it is illegal for those under 18 to smoke in public, never mind what the parents’ views are on the matter, we can consider the issue apart from this fact of the law. Once again the issue is one of context, not of categorical moral principles. Parents often rightfully expose their children to hazards that are as great if not greater than exposing them to various health hazards. Can one say the same thing about allowing one’s children to smoke, drink, even use some narcotics (apart from their sometimes being illegal)? We might start addressing this issue by noting that certainly people in various cultures around the globe bring up their children differently, including allowing them to smoke, drink and otherwise indulge, at least in moderation. Hungarian children routine drink wine at the dinner table when they are only 8 years old. And that is but a rather mild instance of the diversity involving the raising of children around the world. It would be very difficult to argue that in each case child abuse is going on. Even child labor, which in the United States is outlawed or officially regulated, cannot sensibly be uniformly condemned. It is arguable, of course, that the context of American culture is such that given the information most parents could obtain about the health risks of various practices and given that taking certain health risks, such as those arising from smoking cigarettes, serves no overriding valued purpose, parents in America and similar cultures are morally irresponsible if they allow their children to smoke and indulge in similar risky practices. Yet America and many other developed societies are these days multicultural, despite the fact that information about...
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