BANGKOK — In the wake of a new law that classifies smoking at home as “family violence”, experts are debating whether it’s a practical measure to promote health and wellbeing.
One scholar called the law ridiculous in an interview, saying they cannot imagine children taking their parents to court for smoking indoors.
“Who would sue their father or mother? It’s a nonsense law which is impractical,” said the source who requested anonymity, citing fear of repercussions from the military government that passed the law.
The issue was discussed at a Monday symposium on pollution harm reduction organized by the Royal Society of Thailand and the National Research Council of Thailand. While some experts questioned the law’s practicality, they also argue against ignoring genuine health risks cigarette smoke can pose to children.
“One significant source of fine particles is cigarette smoke,” Sayam Aroonsrimorakot from Mahidol University’s Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies said. “It’s full of several toxic substances and contains thousands of chemicals caused by tobacco burning. Another significant source of particles is incense burning.”
He recalled an experiment that showed negative impacts on health from inhaling air within a 1-3 meter radius of both cigarettes and incense sources in a 3 by 4 meter room.
Many Thai households burn incense when praying before Buddha statues or Chinese ancestral altars, often in closed indoor environments.
Health officials said smoking at home will be considered a form of domestic violence under the Promotion of Development and Protection of the Family Institution Act, which will become effective in August.
Children’s habits of putting their hands into their mouths makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of indoor air pollution, warned Siwatt Pongpiachan, the director of the Center for Research and Development of Disaster Prevention and Management.
“Hand-to-mouth actions can increase levels of toxicity intake,” said Siwatt.
He said children also suffer incremental lifetime cancer risk from exposure to PM2.5 particles.