My posts from last year about smoking bans being unfair to elderly smokers weren’t taken very seriously, but according to this article they actually have become a real problem in Ontario:
A worker at a Manitoulin Island long-term care home has been charged with criminal negligence causing death in the case of a resident who died after he went out into the cold to smoke…
If Patterson’s death is linked to the fact he went out for a smoke, it would bring under scrutiny the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which became law last year.
The stringent guidelines allowing smoking in long-term care facilities and psychiatric hospitals include creation of ventilated smoking rooms.
But with most facilities deciding not to build them, a situation has arisen where many elderly, frail and often sick long-term smokers who can’t kick their habit have been forced outside – sometimes into the bitter cold – to smoke their cigarettes.
Can’t kick their habit? Maybe they just don’t want to. Regardless of that, it doesn’t look like the care centers are just casually choosing not to build smoking rooms. The anti-smoking law actually makes it really hard for them to do so:
The health ministry says only 1.5 per cent or 10 of the province’s more than 620 long-term care facilities have been given permission to construct the smoking rooms after they met the new standards. Another 16 applications are in the pipeline.
“We fought the (new law) as valiantly as we could,” said Pat Prentice of the Ontario Association of Resident Councils, a group that tried to have less restrictive rules in place for construction of smoking rooms.
Among the group’s fears was that residents would furtively smoke inside buildings – in closets and stairwells – rather than go outside, increasing the possibility of fires.
A significant number of the homes had no smoking policies before the act came into effect. Many with older smoking rooms decided against building new ones because of the associated costs and complications.
Margaret Toni, director of care for Regency Care with 15 long-term care homes in the GTA, said as much as they’d like to build the rooms for residents, they can’t for lack of funds.
Under the law, money for smoking rooms must come from the home’s “accommodation budget” which funds food, general housekeeping, utilities and administration.
The province, which funds all long-term care homes has made no provisions for extra construction money.
One administrator of a downtown long-term care home, where many residents smoke, said a 22-foot-by-16-foot room that meets provincial standards would cost about $180,000.
Another administrator said they had only recently opened and built smoking rooms under the old guidelines, and were wary of investing in the new ones because the rules could just as easily change again.
I’m not going to say that cases like these are the most compelling reason to oppose smoking bans — a general respect for liberty fits that bill — but it’s worth pointing out the unintended consequences these laws create.