Despite what is known about gender inequalities and the links between smoking, smoke exposure, and poverty, mothers who fail to protect their children from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), are often stigmatized as uncaring mothers by the media. Here I describe the process of talking to mothers of young children about the wider social context(s) within which the act of smoking takes place, and their reflections on the paradox of why many women caring for young children still expose their children to tobacco smoke in home environments. By articulating the complex interrelationship between smoking, the maintenance of social relationships, caring for children, and coping with poverty, the women present an alternative conceptualisation as to why and how mothers direct their agency to enable them to care for their children in poverty, which questions the timing, messages and ultimate effect of giving home smoking advice to mothers with young children.
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