Culture, Netherlands, pregnancy, School

Smoking and Children: The Dutch Attitude

In a recent ‘trending topic’ survey in the Dutch Fabulous Mama magazine 96,1% of those asked responded that they hoped that their children wouldn’t smoke when they were older. Pretty obvious then that amongst mothers the idea of children and smoking isn’t a popular or pleasant one. 75.2% of those asked in the same survey strongly agreed that smoking is a bad example for children. 14.3% followed suit with a milder conviction. 

Photo: Jorc Navarro

And yet… the place my children come in to most contact with smokers and cigarette smoke is on the school playground. A notable amount of parents stand on the schoolplein waiting for their kids with a cigarette in their hand.

It is a topic that has been raised many times by parents. The school say they are not in a position to ban smoking on the school playground (how ironic does that sentence sound?) because it is actually council property and a public area. They did state they could try and discourage it but to date aside from a newsletter bulletin asking parents to place cigarette butts in the bin after the school kids had cleaned them all up from the playground, I have seen nothing on the topic. I kid you not: kids picked up all the butts.

The common sense seems to be there. But the willingness or courage to ban smoking in certain places seems to be absent (you only need to look at the situation in Dutch cafes to know what I mean by that!).

Smoking was a hot topic here when the results of Dutch infant mortality rate were published (in the European Perinatal Health report of December 2008). At this time it was stated that 13.8% of pregnant Dutch women continued to smoke throughout their pregnancy. (A 2010 report gave the figure at somewhere between 10% and 17%). Of course there are countries where smoking is far more prevalent than the Netherlands, and smoking during pregnancy much higher, but as this is the place I live I do notice a fair few pregnant women smoking around me and it never fails to shock me.

How is smoking around children perceived where you live? Is smoking on the school playground whilst waiting for children to finish school common and seen as acceptable? What about smoking during pregnancy – is that a taboo in the country you call home or an accepted part of the local culture? 


11 thoughts on “Smoking and Children: The Dutch Attitude”

  1. Great topic! Last time I asked a parent not to smoke was at a playground in the UK. He called me a fascist, shouting, and rolled and lighted another one. In my birth country, Hungary, smoking (even when pregnant) is far more prevalent than in the UK, but nobody would light up at a playground! Here in NL I am very much bothered by the smoke but do not dare to confront anyone now…

    The most shocking research I have ever read is wherever they banned smoking in closed public spaces, the number of spontaneous miscarriages IN NON-SMOKING WOMEN dropped drastically shortly afterwards. Something to consider…


  2. Here it is. Scottish newspaper summary:
    “After the smoking ban, overall preterm deliveries fell 10%. There was also a 5% decrease in the number of infants born in the lowest 10% of birth weight for their gestational age and gender, and an 8% decrease of infants who were in the lowest 3% for weight. …a ban on smoking has a positive effect on the health of pregnancies. The most encouraging part of the study is that the same decreases were found in women who had never smoked, so it wasn't just a improvement for woman who were themselves tabacco users.”

    And the original PLoS medicine journal article here:

    Cheers, Rita


  3. Nobody has smoked a ciggie near children in Australia since about 1983! I see Dutch (and some expat mamas) having a relaxing fag with friends while their kids play and just think, well, it's Europe… I can see both sides though, the second hand-smoke and bad example could be good reasons for saving your smoke till after the kids are tucked in bed. – Emma:


  4. I am usually of the opinion that one should never judge. But I don't know what to do when it comes to smoking. I can smell cigarette smoke from a great distance and it makes me sick! And then, when somebody smokes near my children, the children stink of cigarette smoke, so I can't hug them without having a coughing fit. As for the health issues associated with smoking, well, that's even another argument for banning smoking near children. I am usually not that militant when it comes to parenting decisions, but I am all on favor of a smoking ban.


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