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The British institute known as Nice (National Institute for Clinical health and Excellence) wants all pregnant women to do a smoking breath test. The government institute says it wants women to do the test as soon as they check in with their GP or midwife after their positive pregnancy test. Now, I admire the British civil service s creativity with their acronyms, but I have to say that I don t think this is very nice at all.

Pregnant Brits are are already asked whether they are smoking, but the proposed breath test would tell for sure. It would also inform healthcare providers if pregnant women are exposed to second hand smoke. The proposal is made under the guise of being able to reach out to pregnant smokers, and offering them help to quit through the National Health Service. Smoking during pregnancy, or smoking at all, is unhealthy. As labels on packets of cigarettes already warn everyone who has ever seen one, smoking kills, and harms unborn babies.

I don t dispute that. I think smoking during pregnancy is a bad idea, but I think government interference in personal matters is an even worse idea. Apparently, the British government is not satisfied with the answers of patients. When you tell your doctor that you do not smoke, you might be lying that is the message the Nice proposal sends UK citizens. People who have trouble giving up smoking when they are expecting a baby should be able to access government programs to help them quit.

I applaud governments that put resources into helping as many babies as possible to be born healthy. But a compulsory test is bound to turn into a slippery slope of government interference and forced measures to quit smoking. That is something I feel impacts essentially private matters too much, and strips citizens of their civil liberties. What do you think? Will this proposal pass? Do you think something similar should, or could be implemented in the United States? Are you in favor of this, and do you think a policy like this should be extended to women trying to conceive? As always, I d love to hear your opinions about this!

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