The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female civil servant in my 30s. I’m concerned about my father-in-law being a heavy smoker.
I’m on good terms with my parents-in-law, who live close by, and my husband and I sometimes visit them and stay overnight on weekends. But my father-in-law often smokes under the kitchen ventilator.
I’ve stayed away from the area whenever he’s doing so, because I don’t like smoking. Everything was working well until recently; I have a baby now and the situation has changed. The problem is that he tries to cuddle the baby right after he finishes smoking. Even though there’s the risk of my baby being exposed to secondhand smoke, he won’t stop doing this.
I’ve asked my husband to talk to his father — I don’t want to do so directly because I don’t want to offend him. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t seem to take the issue seriously enough, and my mother-in-law remains silent on this matter.
I know I should press harder since it’s my child’s health that’s at stake. But I can’t get to that point yet, and I don’t want to ruin our relationship.
It’s not that I want to ask him to give up smoking entirely. I just want him to be a little more considerate when he’s around my baby after he’s been smoking.
Dear Ms. C:
It’s now a well-known fact that tobacco is hazardous to those exposed to passive smoking as much as it is to the smokers themselves. As you’ve stated, harmful substances stay on the smoker’s clothes, which can have health risks. You have every right to disapprove of him holding your baby straight after he smokes.
Considering the fact that he smokes under the ventilator, being mindful of his family members, your father-in-law must be aware of the risks caused by passive smoking. But he seems unaware of the impact after he’s finished smoking and the harm it can cause.
To start with, you can’t escape passive smoking, even if he smokes under the ventilator — smoke spreads in the room anyway.
This said, let me suggest you directly explain to him the risks and ask him to bear these things in mind. I don’t think this will cause any harm to your relationship with him; you will be speaking as a concerned mother to a man who is already aware of the risks of passive smoking.
I recommend that you invite your husband and mother-in-law to join in this conversation. It will help you all to be involved in maintaining a healthy environment for the baby.
Sachiyo Dohi, lawyer