Smoking ban riles elderly in homes

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 12:00 09/07/2013

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New rules that stub out smoking in Manawatu aged-care facilities have been slammed as "PC gone mad".

The MidCentral District Health Board has enforced new regulations that require prospective rest home developments in the region to be smokefree. Existing facilities can sign up on a voluntary basis and MidCentral deputy chief executive Mike Grant said a "high number" had put their names forward.

"Providers to date have been open and supportive of this approach, so it was agreed to roll this into all contract variations going forward," he said.

Under the clause, infringements and warnings would be given to people caught smoking on the sites after July 1, 2014.

All residents and staff must be given access to support services.

Age Concern Manawatu manager Sue Gould said it was "PC gone mad".

"Like most, we were stunned to hear of the initiative and as far as we know there has been no consultation," she said.

"From an elderly resident's point of view they have a right to a quality of life and if that means accommodating those who have been smoking for 60 years then so be it."

Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall said union representatives on the ground had been speaking to elderly residents in Palmerston North who were angry they would be banned from smoking in their homes.

"We haven't been consulted about this and we haven't discussed this with our members yet," Mr Ryall said.

"We are supportive of a smokefree workplace but generally what people do in their own time is up to them.

"There will be some difficulties with elderly people who have been smoking for 50 or 60 years."

Aged Care Association chief executive Martin Taylor said the approach was "tantamount to elder abuse".

"First, a blanket approach to smoking ignores the rights of the elderly in a setting which is meant to be as home-like as possible," he said.

"It also ignores the reality that in one of the most difficult stages of someone's life the health board wants to forcibly stop the elderly doing something that brings them comfort."

Mr Taylor said the average age of entry into aged residential care was 84, which meant the current rest-home residents were born in 1929 - a time when smoking was accepted, cheap and deemed healthy.

"Don't get me wrong, smoking is an unhealthy habit, but if you have managed to be a smoker for a few decades and beat the odds and enter aged residential care you should have this lifestyle choice supported," he said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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