Sunday, March 27, 2011

The right to smoke

The Council of Official Visitors, an independent agency tasked by the Western Australian parliament with protecting the rights of the mentally ill, is very unhappy with the blanket ban on smoking in mental institutions:
Smoking has been banned on public hospital sites for the past two and a half years. Council lobbied against the ban for involuntary patients and continues to argue for designated smoking areas.

There is no doubt that quitting smoking would be of benefit to mental health consumers but Council’s argument is that it is cruel to make people who are already so unwell that they have been made involuntary, give up such a difficult addiction on admission.

It is not the right time to be asking people to go through the terrible nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Although nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is offered to consumers, it does not alleviate all the withdrawal symptoms nor is it an adequate substitute for the emotional and social dependence of smoking. This is particularly evident amongst consumers who regularly complain to Official Visitors about the boredom they experience while on the wards.

The ban is also a further erosion of consumers’ rights and not in accordance with section 5 of the Act which requires that people with a mental illness must receive care and treatment with the least restriction of their freedom and least interference with their rights.
The Council's report – pdf available here – provides examples of the extreme measures undertaken by mentally ill patients seeking to circumvent the smoking ban: "tea" made from nicotine patches and paper clips inserted into power-points to create a cigarette-lighting spark.

The government's feeble response:
Health Minister Kim Hames said if the smoking ban was reviewed, "the views found in the Council of Official Visitors annual report would be taken into account".
The Labor opposition is more realistic, however:
Opposition mental health spokeswoman Ljiljanna Ravlich said she supported designated smoking areas for involuntary patients because the facility was their home.
Jesus H. Christ, the mentally ill have few enough pleasures in life; if they want to smoke, let them.


Anonymous Dan Lewis said...

They're not "mentally ill", JF.

They're "consumers". Got that?

Presumably that euphemism was created by the same people who named it the "Council of Official Visitors".

Talk about being detached from your client base.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Boy on a bike said...

There was a case in the UK where a mentally ill woman committed suicide in a hospital because she couldn't have a smoke. I read somewhere that damn near 100% of the mentally ill smoke. If that's the case, make allowances for it.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The assisted living complex where my gran and gramps lived had always allowed smoking on the back porch. The front porch was non smoking but the back porch was where all the laughter and chatter was, with all these 75-100 year old wonders who'd somehow managed to make it THAT far in their life without dying of the things, gathered out there winter or summer.

Then a new Health & Safety reg that no smoking was allowed within 4 metres of any door, which put the entire back porch off limits. They would have had to go down the steps, cross a busy road with their walkers and wheelchairs and, in Gramps' case, his white cane, and go stand on the other side of the road in their dressing gowns if they wanted a smoke.

THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN SMOKING FOR AS LONG AS 70 YEARS! Sorry to shout, but I still get angry about how miserable they managed to make the last years of otherwise good lifelong law-abiding citizens' lives.

Fucking anti-smoking nazis.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smoking fires up the P450 cytochrome subsystem and alters hepatic metabolism.

Patients with mental illness who smoke may require higher doses of antipsychotics, increasing their risk of experiencing side effects and adverse events.

Maybe they're not just being "mean" for the hell of it, but they're instead trying to manage complex medical issues with as few complications as possible.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Minicapt said...

"Maybe they're not just being "mean" for the hell of it, but they're instead trying to manage complex medical issues with as few complications as possible."

Maybe they have no clue what is going on except they are pleasured by their efforts to force others to make behaviour changes. Maybe they are suppressing desires to establish themselves as Masters/Mistresses of Firm and Strict Discipline. Maybe the anti-smoking zealots are in admiration of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church.


1:32 AM  

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