Children’s rights are part of our DNA: The right to development and Smoke-Free Generation
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Belgian Alliance for a Smoke Free Society, Brussels, Belgium
Publication date: 2020-10-22
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2020;6(Supplement):A88
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The right to grow up smoke-free is defended by various articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, where the right to health (art. 24 CRC) and the right to life, survival and development (art. 6 CRC) are essential. Article 6 UNCRC goes further than the right to life and survival of other human rights treaties because it includes the child’s right to development. The article adds another new element and explicitly refers to the positive obligation of parties to the Convention to ensure the development of the child. General Comment 16 states that childhood is a unique period of development where unsafe products and environmental hazards may have life-long, irreversible and even transgenerational consequences.
The bodies of children and youngsters are still developing, which makes them among the most vulnerable members of the population. They are extra vulnerable to the harmful substances in cigarette smoke, and studies have shown the harmful effects of regularly active smoking by youngsters. At least 250 of the 7000 chemicals in tobacco smoke are known to be very harmful to health, and more than 70 of these substances are known to cause cancer. Cigarette smoking during pregnancy is responsible, among other things, for an increased risk of low birthweight in children, premature birth and sudden death syndrome, and has an important influence on lung development and increases the risk of congenital disabilities of various organs. Children who passively smoke have a reduced lung function and an increased risk of respiratory infections, asthma, behavioral problems and learning difficulties. The chemicals from cigarette smoke settle on surfaces in the home and on dust. Children can swallow or absorb these chemicals or ‘thirdhand smoke’ through skin contact with the floor and furniture. Tobacco smoke chemicals can remain on surfaces for months. Smoking teens have less healthy airways and more cardiovascular diseases. Adolescence is also an experimenting period for teenagers, including tobacco, with the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine in the background of an industry looking for ‘replacement smokers’.
One may conclude that this ‘unsafe’ consumer product impedes their right to development of Article 6 UNCRC of becoming a healthy adult. The Belgian Alliance for a Smoke-Free Society, therefore, puts children’s rights at the basis of both its advocacy activities and campaigns to the public at large. This way, it wants to ensure that present and future generations can grow up smoke-free, respecting their right to development to healthy adults.
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