New target

Children may soon sue smoking parents

Published: Monday 31 January 2000

Children exposed to their parents' smoking may soon begin suing them. A recently-released report by Eugene Arocca, a partner at the Australia-based Maurice Blackburn Cashman, says that the focus in tobacco litigation in Australia will soon shift from exposure in the workplace to family law and the hospitality industry. He says that children whose parents smoke and regular patrons of hotels, restaurants and night-clubs who are exposed to smoke could all make legal claims in the future." The medical and legal issues raised by such cases will expand to the extent that ultimately actions will be contemplated against relatives who smoke, occupiers of residential premises and even expectant mothers," Arocca says adding that the "rapidly flourishing field" of tobacco litigation has meant that what might seem far-fetched today could easily become a reality in the next five to 10 years.

Arocca says that cases in the US show that parents who refuse to stop smoking while in the company of their children may lose custody rights. "If parents contesting the custody of a child have equal attributes other than one being a smoker, then one would presume that this would be a most persuasive factor in determining the issue of custody." Arocca said children, young or grown-up, who contracted cancer, asthma or related diseases could sue their parents or relatives for passive smoking.

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