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The reaction of some nursing home operators to the new county and city smoke-free air laws creates a dilemma. An addicted smoker in a nursing home is likely to have a problem with being denied smoking privileges that formerly were taken for granted. At the same time, employees should not have to be exposed to secondhand smoke while on the job.
There’s also the issue of “Enabling behavior.” That’s the term used for someone who assists an alcoholic, for example, by denying that it’s a problem. The first priority from a health standpoint is instead to try and help that person to quit.
When it comes to smoking, though, enabling behavior seems to be the norm, at least in a nursing home! There’s something of a disconnect there, but clearly people are blind to it. It bears a striking similarity to what happened just last week when four Brentwood aldermen voted to allow smoking back in a VFW post.
And it wasn’t all THAT long ago that I recall smoking being allowed in hospitals, on the oncology floor with cancer patients no less. I visited Barnes Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, some years ago to speak to a person in public relations. I entered past a guard who was smoking, and waited in the visitor’s lobby where there was a smoking section.
The hospital gift shop also sold cigarettes and I asked about that too.
I was told it was unreasonable to expect patients (or their visitors) to smoke outside the hospital. And as for the gift shop, it was manned by volunteers raising money for the hospital and selling cigarettes was for the convenience of the patients.
Rather than set an example, ALL local hospitals – not just BJC – lagged behind in providing a smoke-free environment. Hospitals didn’t want to turn away their best customers: smokers suffering from smoking-induced illnesses. It all came down to money.
BY PAUL HAMPEL • email@example.com > 314-727-6234 | Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2011 12:05 am | Comments (53 @ 2:42 pm 2/12/11)
CLAYTON • St. Louis County’s new smoking ban is proving to be a great inconvenience for nursing homes, operators say.
The ban included an exemption that allows smoking in residents’ rooms if all occupants agree. But state law requires that all smoking be supervised in nursing homes.
That was not a problem when smoking was permitted in common areas. But nursing home operators say they do not have enough personnel to supervise smoking in individual rooms.
Last week, Cheryl Wilson, director of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program in Brentwood, wrote to members of the County Council to ask them to revise the ordinance to allow smoking in designated areas of the facilities. The ombudsman program is federally funded and oversees long-term care facilities.
“We’ve been getting calls from facilities asking ‘What do we do?'” Wilson said. “What this (ban) has done is effectively outlaw smoking in all nursing homes because it’s just impossible for them to supervise smoking in each and every room.”
Wilson cited a state regulation that allows smoking “only in designated areas.”
County Counselor Patricia Redington said the county’s ban, which took effect Jan. 2, is consistent with the state regulation, though she concedes that allowing smoking in individual rooms may prove inconvenient for nursing homes.
“The ban was crafted to have very minimal exceptions and I suspect the County Council did not want smoking in lounges where workers might be exposed,” Redington said.
A smoking ban that took effect in the city of St. Louis at the same time as the county’s prohibits smoking in all “private and semi-private rooms” of nursing homes and does not include an exemption for residents’ rooms.
Wilson said that nursing home operators have told her that, by and large, they have been ignoring the law and allowing residents to continue smoking as they had before, though not in their rooms, as that is considered a fire hazard.
“You can’t expect older people to go outside and smoke right after we’ve had an ice storm,” Wilson said. “One nursing home has a 100-year-old man who has been smoking since he was 10 years old. How can you tell him he can’t smoke anymore?”
“Any time that you legislate for the public health, and particularly with a smoking ban, there are going to be ramifications,” Stenger said.
He said the council is willing to meet with nursing home operators and residents.
“We want to do anything we can for nursing homes to protect the rights of the residents and do that in the least-restrictive way possible,” Stenger said. “We’ll figure out something that is mutually agreeable.”