This way, he said in an email, he will not be endangering the health of billions of children, many of whom have medical conditions which make them especially sensitive to secondhand tobacco smoke.
Reacting to the growing evidence that even small amounts of secondhand tobacco smoke pose very serious health risks to young children, and especially to the tens of millions who already have asthma, hay fever, sinusitis, or other respiratory problems and sensitivities, Santa said that he has given up smoking, and urged parents of young children to do the same as a Christmas gift to their offspring.
He noted that the New York Times had reported, "At least 6,200 children die each year in the United States because of their parents' smoking, killed by such things as lung infections and burns . . More young children are killed by parental smoking than by all unintentional injuries combined."
Santa also noted that in thousands of homes, both here and abroad, all smoking is banned by court order or, in the case of homes where foster children live, by legislation or agency regulations.
In addition, since smoking has been banned in so many public places in order to protect adults, Santa believed that it was time to extend the same protection to young children. He urged parents to follow his example, or at least not to smoke within a home where there are children.
Santa's decision was announced by public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who had written a letter to old Saint Nick. Instead of asking for presents, Banzhaf asked Santa to note that times have changed, and that what was once seen as a harmless habit is now a deadly danger to children. Santa agreed.
Prior letters by Banzhaf led to antismoking messages on radio and television, a ban on cigarette commercials, bans on smoking in many public places, judges banning smoking in custody cases and, more recently, bans on smoking in the homes of foster children.
“Christmas is about children, and it is wonderful that Santa Claus is setting such a great example in protecting them from tobacco smoke pollution. The most important and lasting gift any smoker can give a child is to give up smoking, or at least to stop smoking around his or her children," said Banzhaf.
Santa also decided to follow the example of the World Health Organization and many other businesses, and require that all of his elves become nonsmokers by next Christmas. He was moved be estimates that each and every smoking worker can cost his employer more than $12,000 a year in added and totally unnecessary costs, something Santa can ill afford.
"A smokefree work force, like a drug free work force, ensures that the health costs of such practices do not have to be borne by the organization and by the other workers. Employing someone who smokes dramatically inflates health care and other costs," said Banzhaf, noting that the costs usually must be passed along to other employees who have adopted healthier life styles.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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