Smoking still creeps around the ban

ciggyNow that the UK has a nationwide ban on smoking in enclosed public places, you’d think the message was getting through that smoking is a dirty, filthy, dangerous habit that is nothing more than drug addiction legitimised by years of use, and has the the most wonderful side-effect of causing damage not only to those that partake of the filthy habit, but those who are compelled to breathe in their smoke if they are unfortunate enough to be in their proximity.

Strangely, although I can actually see the legal responsibility logic for the decision, the Home Office has exemption from this law, and prisoners are allowed to smoke while in prison. Some might also see that as a way of reducing crime anyway, by letting them kill themselves by giving themselves lung cancer and heart disease, so there might be some logic in the decision, given that the countries prisons are all over filled.

The same logic does not apply to those in mental health units, or hospitals.

Flitting around the news items this morning, I’m amazed to see that because they are banned from smoking while in such a unit or hospital (the law come into force for them on July 1, 2008), they are kicking up a stink by claiming they are being  ‘robbed’ of the right to smoke.

At least three cases are to be raised, two by patients held in a secure hospital that introduced the ban early (in March 2007), where the claim is that the ban infringes their human rights, namely article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for private and family life; and a third being brought by a Rampton patient who can only be identified by their initials of WN, is against the secretary of state for health, for bringing the legislation through Parliament. The patients argue the hospital is effectively their home and therefore they should be able to smoke. The new rules even prevent them smoking in the grounds.

As usual, there is a solicitor ready to pick up some easy money by taking the case, arguing that “They are being deprived of the choice of doing what they want,” he says.

I like him, I will definitely give him a job if I ever get done for exceeding the speed limit on an empty road somewhere, on the basis that I was denied the choice of driving along a piece of deserted road at the speed I wanted to. And what about the Human Rights of the staff too, not to have someone blowing carcinogens and noxious fumes in their faces?

In the third case, a legal advocate is out to get some easy publicity and bringing a legal challenge against the smoke-free policy. “You have the choice to smoke in prison, but not in a mental hospital,” he says. “But prisons are there for punishment, and hospitals are there for treatment.” DUH!!! the idea of the rule is to make places smoke-free and safe for those not wishing to be subject to the by-products of the filthy habit, and being punished for having their health harmed while trying to help others.

Smokers make up 26% of the general population, but 70% of mental health inpatients are smokers, according to Mental Health Today.

One would think that statistic was a good argument for being thankful that the ban would mean that the 70%, who are unlikely to be able to make an informed decision about becoming addicted to tobacco, but no, rather than welcoming this help to break the habit, they complain that it’s the only comfort and friend they may have when held in a such units. Quite apart from the imposition of their dirty habit on those around them, one has to ask about the dangers of allowing person with mental health problems (and I make NO judgement of that problem itself, which is what should be being dealt with, free of this distraction) to have fire-raising apparatus – matches, lighters, cigarettes etc.

This story, and the existence of solicitors and advocates who are little more that species ‘Ambulance Chaser’ who will argue on behalf of addicts to pursue their addiction, is a sad reflection of the deeply ingrained social acceptance that has, and still does, follow the habit of smoking, and sees it as some sort of socially acceptable and attractive activity, and not the filthy and dirty addiction to a drug that it really is.

It’s really sad that this ‘heritage’ that some still seem to seek to maintain for smoking keeps giving it some sort of credibility, yet in a mental health environment, is a patient that seeks to ease their suffering by smoking any less in need of help to stop, or be prevented from self harm, than a patient that steals blades, or breaks glass, and inflicts cuts to themselves?

I don’t think so.

Instead of seeking to resolve this issue by fighting to have smoking allowed in these hospitals, the sell-out lawyers these people have hired (where do patients in mental units get the money to both smoke and retain these lawyers) should be fighting the Home Office, and having the smoking ban enforced in prisons.

But that probably wouldn’t generate the same interest, or maybe even profit for them, would it?


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