The Smoking Ban
Today a ban on smoking in public places comes into law in England, bringing the region in line with the rest of the United Kingdom. But does this have any particular impact on disabled smokers?
Care homes and hospices are exempt from the ban, in so far as residents are allowed to smoke in their own homes and these places are effectively a person's home. This issue was raised in a thread over on the Ouch! Messageboard this week when GumChewingFreak asked whether it would still be okay to light up around her PA.
However, the exemption for psychiatric hospitals that Liz Main wrote about last year in Pygama Girl is Smoke Free only lasts until July 1st, 2008. There is a very high level of smoking among people with mental ill health, with up to 70% of psychiatric inpatients being smokers. For some people, regardless of the long-term effects, smoking is felt to provide temporary relief from certain symptoms, such as anxiety or chronic pain. In
Swallow The Spider To Catch the Fly, Sasha Vais actually takes up smoking in a desperate attempt to limit his intake of prescription medicines.
With some folks being detained in hospital, there is a real question of whether being forced to suddenly give up smoking is not likely to make an already distressing experience all the more distressing. It also seems rather unfair when prisons - places people are detained for committing a crime as opposed to simply being unwell - will continue to have designated smoking rooms.
Then again, hospitals are places very much concerned with all aspects of health. Other service users, as well as the people who work there, are no less entitled to protection from the dangers of passive smoking.
Meanwhile, a great number of disabled people are likely to benefit massively from the ban on smoking in public places. People with various respiratory conditions and immune disorders will be able to enjoy social activities that were previously barred to them, including Ouch! writer Jo Willacy, who has Cystic Fibrosis and wrote about her support for the ban in Smoke Gets In Your Lungs.
If the ban is successful in encouraging people to give up, this will also reduce the instances of various conditions which can cause impairment and add to our number. Damon wrote last year about the warnings on cigarette packets which emphasised the dangers of smoking to one's eyesight as opposed to one's life in Better Blind Than Dead
In any case, I'd like to wish the very best of luck to everyone who has chosen to give up smoking today. In case it is of any use or interest, the charity Rethink has a factsheet about Smoking and Mental Illness, including information about quitting.
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