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By Jennifer Ferris

A proposed rule that would have kept cigarette smoke away from infants in foster care was tabled Wednesday during a meeting of the House Health Committee at the North Carolina General Assembly. This is the fourth time Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Matthews) has proposed a rule to protect foster children from smoke, and the fourth time she has faced pushback by her fellow representatives.

Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Matthews) Photo courtesy N.C. General Assembly

“While I believe the bill’s sponsors have the absolute best intentions,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Cary), “I really have serious, serious problems with this bill.”

Dollar said that a bill to limit tobacco-smoke exposure would also restrict parents’ freedom within their homes. He worried about how the state would regulate such a plan, and whether friends of the family or grandparents would also have their smoking habits restricted.

Some studies have connected exposure to smoke with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Many foster children suffer from one or more health issues, with asthma or other disorders of the airway being common complaints. Cotham said she believes strongly that North Carolina should be the 19th state in the U.S. to restrict smoking near foster infants.

“We don’t allow prison guards to smoke because we don’t want inmates to breathe in smoke,” she said. “I think we should protect babies as well.”

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