A father put his newborn son in a bedroom with the cage door open, unaware that someone was lurking inside. Even family members were banned from entering. The mother of a newborn boy wanted to ensure that his grandmother would not smoke around him when he was born. So, after reading numerous comments on the internet, she decided to write a letter to Slate’s parenting advice column, Care and Feeling. She expressed her concerns that the smoke her mother-in-law exudes while walking into the house might be harmful to the child. She said:

“I am expecting my first baby soon. When the baby is born, my in-laws will be coming for a visit. My mother-in-law is a heavy smoker. I’m not worried about her smoking in front of my child, but after researching thirdhand smoke, I am very concerned about her holding the baby after she has had a cigarette. My husband and I have decided that after she smokes, she needs to shower and change her clothes before she can pick up the baby.”

Mom added, “We don’t want my mother-in-law to feeling ostracized, and we don’t want to hurt her feelings, but obviously, those are likely potential outcomes. How can we still be welcoming and let her know we are excited to have her around while still setting these boundaries? Also, how long should we remain this strict about the issue? How should we handle this when we are visiting my in-laws?”

“Are you f***ing kidding me? I used to light cigarettes for the elders in my family!” the columnist wrote in response. She replied without hesitation. She then turned serious: “thirdhand smoke is a real thing apparently, so kudos to you for taking it seriously.”

She stated, “When she’s visiting you, I think you can be strict about this. When you are visiting them, I think you have to, for necessity’s sake, be less so. It’s not possible for them to clear all residual smoke and nicotine off of everything in their home. You may want to stay in a hotel for that reason.”

The columnist even advised the smoker to question her behavior in order to reconsider her life.

“With any luck, this will spur her to take a second look at her relationship to smoking and maybe even cause her to let go of something that is clearly standing in the way of being with her grandbaby.”

The mother’s preference is that her mother-in-law bathe and change her clothes before snuggling the baby to reduce any chance of “thirdhand smoke” absorption. She also suggests that, when visiting family in her own home, the grandmother should be more lenient about reducing smoke exposure since it’s hard for them to remove all residual smoke and nicotine from their house.

What are your thoughts on this mother’s recommendations? Do you believe she is being too cautious or not cautious enough?