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Another battle won in the war on tobacco

June 30, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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Many states have some type of smoking ban. New York state expanded its last fall to include outside areas around hospitals and healthcare facilities (including nursing homes), according to an article I read recently. This past October, the administrator of a Malone, NY, nursing home gave the entire staff a two-week warning that a facility wide smoking ban would go into effect.

The facility provides lunch for all shifts, so employees cannot leave the premises. They no longer can smoke in the parking lot or in their vehicles. The facility is on quite a large property, so the nearest place for employees to smoke is alongside a busy highway.

Some smokers thought that a nearby business might allow them to smoke in its parking lot during the winter. Employees appealed the administrator's decision to the county manager, who told them the New York Department of Health would make the final decision. Because the facility is closing this year to merge with another company, however, the ban will remain in effect.

Most healthcare employers (including former smokers) believe that a nonsmoking work environment is important for their business, residents and employees. Studies show residents who live in smoke-free facilities heal faster and are healthier. They also believe that a nonsmoking work environment encourages smokers to quit.

Smoke-free nursing homes are cleaner. Less concern exists about cigarettes causing fire. I wonder how much longer residents will be allowed to continue smoking, even outdoors around healthcare facilities. When residents smoke outside, their smoke follows them back in.

I do not think a person's right to smoke should prevent residents from living in a smoke-free environment. Nonsmokers who are allergic to cigarette smoke have breathing problems and allergy symptoms unless they can get away from the smoke.

Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, healthcare rates could increase up to 50 percent for smokers. Health insurance companies know what smoking does to our health. Nonsmokers also get lung problems and lung cancer because of their exposure to secondhand smoke.

Some nursing homes are offering smoking cessation programs to assist their employees to quit.



Most homes have taken away their little safe smoking areas to align with this trend. At the home I work at girls, who work even at evening and night, have to go "off campus" to smoke (But can still eat hot dogs and donuts in abundance on campus, a societal norm that is more to blame for rising healthcare cost than smoking. But who cares?). They are now subject to the attentions of wierdos and strangers wanting money. Not a good thing in an area where a human trafficking ring was recently busted. They even get approached if they go in their cars, and this is not even a "bad neighborhood". It isn't safe, and in my opinion, makes the home look even worse, having all those girls in uniform just over the property line. Everyone knows the dangers of smoking. That is between the person and their doctor. Things like this, that make it dangerous and in a way criminalize and discriminate and impede on free choice, put these ladies in danger. It is like this everywhere. Drive past a hospital late at night and you will see nurses standing on corners in the dark to smoke a cigarette. There is nothing admirable about this.

Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...