Chrissie Swan Unsurprisingly Shamed For Smoking During Pregnancy

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shutterstock_74300869Australian radio and television personality, Chrissie Swan, was caught sneaking a cigarette in her car. She’s pregnant. As you can imagine – everyone is up in arms. It’s amazing the different things we label as “forgivable” or “unforgivable” in regards to pregnant women. I think everyone should just mind their own business.

A tearful Swan admitted to being unable to control her addiction as well as unable to explain it.

“It’s a horrifying situation and people are rightly disgusted,” she said, adding that she only told her partner and her mother after the photograph was taken. She also said she hoped that the incident was dramatic enough to help her give up the fags for good.

She said her latest pregnancy had been a “massive surprise and I had tried to go cold turkey like I did with (oldest son) Leo and I was confident I could do it, but I couldn’t. I just failed and failed, time after time.”

Smoking during pregnancy can potentially have awful repercussions. I’m not defending it as a choice – I’m just saying that being pregnant doesn’t automatically give you an iron will or make you infallible. People make mistakes. Pregnant women do things that people may deem “unhealthy” all the time.

When I was on the Babycenter boards with my last pregnancy, there would be thread after thread devoted to what crazy cravings women were having. Women would admit to eating Taco Bell every day or having insatiable cravings for Big Macs and apple pie. All of these anecdotes were taken lightly – brushed aside with “well, you’re pregnant!”  I’m not convinced that having the occasional cigarette is any worse than dumping all of that crap into your body.

I think pregnant women dealing with addictions need help. It would be easier for them to get that help if they could be forthcoming about what was going on instead of hiding out of fear of judgement. No matter how pro-woman, pro-choice, or pro-feminist people are – they never seem to have a problem judging pregnant women who make poor health choices with disgust. No matter how open-minded you are, it’s hard to stop seeing a pregnant woman as merely a vessel for her growing fetus. Myself included. I have certainly been guilty of judging women made choices I deemed “unhealthy.”

So maybe the answer isn’t that people should “mind their own business.” Maybe the answer is that people should understand that pregnant women aren’t infallible – and treat them with a little more compassion.

(photo: Andrey Eremin/


  1. Flora

    February 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I really love your take on this– I felt awful for her when I saw this! Hopefully now she can talk to her doctor without fear of further shaming and get the help she needs, possibly to quit for good!

  2. copycait

    February 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I really like your non-judgmental take on this!

    I do take offense to your equating cigarettes to a Big Mac though. I’m not saying either is good for you, but only one is literally poison.

    • Rachel

      February 11, 2013 at 7:20 pm

      Yes, one is poison, but cigarettes are still really bad for you too.

    • Miranda

      February 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      I giggled. XD

  3. Jennifer Ives O'Meara

    February 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    While I completely understand the devastating facts of addiction, and have compassion for those struggling to be healed, my personal and unchangeable opinion is this, if you are struggling with an addiction, you have no business being pregnant. I know my opinion is unpopular, but seriously, if you can’t get your shit together, you need to terminate. How many more babies need to be born with life altering diseases, disabilities, just to be abandoned to the foster system? I realize we are talking about smoking, but I honestly would consider it child abuse, any person with half a brain knows what happens when you smoke. (i smoked for 15 years, and quit 2 years before becoming pregnant) and I am nobody special, so if I can do it, so can anybody.

    • Tinyfaeri

      February 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

      I’m tired of the “if I can do it, you can do it” crap. Quitting smoking is not an experience you can compare, any more than you can say that if you can lose the pregnancy weight in 2 months, anyone can, if you can run a marathon, anyone can, or if you can raise 5 kids, anyone can. It doesn’t work for anything. Everyone’s situation is different, and you have no idea what someone else’s story is. And, while I wouldn’t ever say that smoking during pregnancy or while breastfeeding is a good idea (we all know it’s not), the occasional cigarette while pregnant is neither child abuse nor is it equal to shooting up or smoking crack.
      And as pro choice as I am (very), no one ever has the right to tell someone else she needs to terminate her pregnancy, just as no one has the right to force someone to carry to term.

    • TheSquirrel

      February 14, 2013 at 6:55 pm

      Sooo, if you smoke a ciggie then you should terminate?? That’s nuts.

  4. bumbler

    February 11, 2013 at 3:38 am

    I think it’s fine to shame people for making poor decisions, especially those that directly harm themselves and children. Social pressure is an important source of moral guidance. Shaming is a difficult balance between asserting that the behavior is unacceptable, and the the potential that the shame will lead to stress or depression, which may further some addiction-based behaviors. However, my fear would be that if we stop making a fuss over the wrongs we see, and act like everything is ok and everyone can just carry on as they so wish to whatever extreem, people will all too easily succumb to the allure of poor choices. In short, I would rather risk the shame leading to a short term rise in cigarette use (which would hopefully also culminate in an attempt to cease the drug use), rather than the long term effect of a laissez-faire attitude towards the addiction (which accommodates further drug use, rather than pressure or motivation to quit).

    • Miranda

      February 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      I don’t know about all that… I’m more likely to take the attitude that if I’m already getting shit for it, I might as well do it. Obviously it wouldn’t be quite that cut and dry when it’s also my baby’s health at stake, but shaming has that effect on me, so your approach could make it worse just as much as “acting like everything is okay,” which is not at all what was being suggested here anyway.

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