If you think that tobacco control has taken absurd proportions, you’re not the only one. This has no longer anything to do with health, but with controlling human behaviour and punishing those that will not abide to the party rules. The following apalling two articles cannot leave anyone indifferent. You CAN make a difference. Tell the government what you think of what can now easily be considered hate against smokers and not against the habit. Tell the world of what the Canadian government is doing to its elderly and the sick.
Dying smoker left out in the cold TheStar.com - News - Dying smoker left out in the cold
No room under new rules for indoor smoking areas in hospitals
TimeSincePublished("2006-12-21-04:30:00","2006-12-21","Dec. 21, 2006");
As Suzanne Penny prepares for death, one of the few remaining pleasures in life is her cigarettes. They are the cause of the cancer that ravages her, but also a soothing source of comfort. They helped Penny cope with the terror of diagnosis, brain surgery, radiation treatment and knowing she will die soon, and likely alone.
Cigarettes will be her partner on this final journey; there isn't anyone else. They are her friends. To indulge her habit, Penny must leave the Salvation Army Grace Hospital, at Church and Bloor Sts. She bundles up, rides the elevator six floors down and pushes her walker out to the smoking area, near the parking lot and next to an industrial garbage dumpster.
It's the law. There is no protection from wind, rain or cold, only a bench and a receptacle for butts. "It is quite delightful when it's dark and raining," said 58-year-old Penny, a trace of sarcasm tingeing her prim English accent.
Penny and many others in hospitals, chronic care facilities, nursing homes and seniors residences are on the wrong side of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which bans smoking in workplaces and public places. It took effect June 1.
The legislation is intended to reduce workers' exposure to second-hand smoke and make it harder for people to light up. But it left no wiggle room for hospitals, some of which had an indoor smoking area for gravely ill people before, but are no longer allowed.
Major Dennis Brown, CEO of Grace Hospital, said he sympathizes with smokers and understands the hardships caused by the new rules, but can't help them.
"When it was legal for us to have a smoking room, we felt that it made sense for people in their final days to have an area where they could continue to smoke and not be faced with symptoms and cravings," said Brown.
Before the province's rules kicked in, the city's smoking bylaw called for a specially ventilated room. Brown says a bylaw inspector told the hospital a year ago its smoking room didn't comply and to stop using it within 30 days, or face large fines.
To a patient with a long-nourished nicotine habit, facing a life-threatening illness without cigarettes may seem like a good idea to non-smokers, but is out of the question to them.
Just stand near the doors of any hospital and observe the procession of patients with jackets over gowns, sometimes in wheelchairs or with intravenous carts in tow, puffing away.
In the daily emails and calls to The Fixer, we occasionally get one that jumps out from the usual fare of tripping hazards and burned-out streetlights.
Penny's began by saying: "I am dying in the palliative care unit at the Grace Hospital. I would like to do so with a reasonable amount of grace and dignity, but that has been taken from me. I am a smoker.
"Forbidding smoking can't – won't – stop me from smoking, but I must go outside to do it. It is a decision that seems sure to give me pneumonia.
"I cannot stop smoking. Someone else's decision gives me no dignity and no choices. I feel sad and angry. Where is the mercy? Where is the humanity? Where are the exceptions?"
Her plea is especially ironic, given that both the University of Toronto and York University recently created rooms for professors who smoke marijuana for medical reasons, but didn't want to sneak around outside to do it.
Outside the front doors of the Grace, a red line has been painted across the pavement. No smoking is allowed inside the line, to comply with the rule that forbids smoking within nine metres of the entrance to a health care facility.
Rather than go to the designated smoking area, patients using wheelchairs and walkers often hover just outside the line, trying to escape the wind while puffing on cigarettes.
One man, outfitted in a shiny, chrome-coloured helmet, sits on the small seat of a walker and smokes while greeting visitors.
"He was always falling down and banging his head, so they gave him a helmet," Penny explained. "Some of the people down here don't have any money for cigarettes, so they beg for them from people going by. It's terribly sad."
Before she was diagnosed with terminal lung and brain cancer, Penny lived in Etobicoke and worked for the province's Office of the Public Trustee and Guardian. Her job was to find family members of people who died without a will, often to give them money they didn't know was coming.
For 40 years, she's smoked at least a pack a day, and says it was closer to two in the old days, when people still smoked at their desks.
"It's not the nicotine that's so hard to give up, it's the habit, the socializing. I always enjoyed it." She's been on her own since the infamous morning of 9/11, when her husband died of a heart ailment a couple of hours before planes started slamming into towers.
Her only family in Canada is her 24-year-old daughter Ashley, who has a small child and lives with her husband in Victoria, B.C. She's here for Christmas but has to go home Jan. 9. After that, Penny is on her own.
She's been a patient at the Grace for about six weeks, after a stay at St. Michael's Hospital, where she underwent brain surgery in October.
The long, fresh scar from where they went in climbs up the back of her head. It's easy to see; she has no hair.
Other than a few friends, she must deal with her impending descent entirely on her own. It is no wonder that she is driven to leave her bed and go out into the cold for a smoke, every hour or so.
She'd settle for a small bit of shelter somewhere closer to her room. Through a sliding glass door on one side of the lounge for palliative care patients is the Roof Garden, used for social events in good weather.
It's an open area but has a roof over it. To Penny, it looks a lot better than standing next to the garbage dumpster, but the new rules don't allow it to be used for smoking.
Greg Flood, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health Promotion, which is responsible for the legislation, said circumstances such as Penny's were taken into account when it was drafted, but it was decided that it was more important to protect others from second-hand smoke.
"When that bill was being enacted, we actually did consult with the ministry, specifically about our palliative care unit," said Brown. "We were told very clearly that there would be no exemptions for palliative care units."
Patients can always avail themselves of smoking cessation aids, adds Brown, including nicotine patches and chewing gum. It pains us to say there is no fix here.
Perley vets' final war
They fought for your freedom, now they need your help to win back one of their few remaining pleasures
What they need now, these 21 people living at Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre, is help. Some good samaritans. Maybe even a single good samaritan of means.
Seventeen of the 21 fought for us in war. For our freedom. The help they are now asking is infinitesimal compared to what they once did for you, for me, for all of us.
Perley and Rideau says it hasn't the money for them. The board of directors says the 21 can have a controlled room for smoking, but they have to come up with the $70,000 an engineer's report said it will take to renovate the room to meet the stringent security and ventilation standards under the province's Smoke-Free Ontario Act that came into effect June 1 to combat the health hazard of second-hand smoke.
Good, decent people
Do not be so self-righteous and ignorant as to condemn these 21 out of the 450 veterans and non-veterans at Perley and Rideau. If you do, you are without heart and understanding.
The good samaritans would understand. Those who know that smoking is not a criminal offence. That there are good and decent people who smoke. Maybe some of them the good samaritans. Who maybe themselves had or have smoking parents. Or children. Or brothers, sisters. Or not.
Good samaritans who know that those who once went to war for us were of a generation that smoked. Who know that our government provided cigarettes for soldiers cheap and even free. Who know that smoking was their choice, their habit, one of the few calming pleasures they had in the hellfire of war. Who know that smoking is for many of them -- alone and mostly lonely -- their only pleasure in the deepening dusk of their lives at Perley and Rideau.
Veterans like wheelchair-bound Fred Warner, 91, a Chief Warrant Officer in the RCAF, World War Two, who quit smoking eight years ago -- "Not for health, just decided to" -- and whose new war is campaigning for funds for the smoking room as president of the Veterans' Residents Council.
"Before this government act, we had 12 enclosed smoking areas and nobody complained, nobody had to go outside," says Warner, a sparkly stud that belonged to his late wife in his left ear lobe, her former car's licence plate saying My Fred attached to his wheelchair.
"Now they're all forced outside no matter how rotten the weather. These are old, fragile people. Their health's not the best. Something bad's going to happen."
It already has. An elderly woman went outside recently, her wheelchair hit an obstruction and toppled on top of her. Her head was split open, she was taken to hospital with a broken hip.
Jack Coghill, a volunteer at the centre, sent a letter of resignation after a frail new vet -- lonely, no family, a smoker -- retreated, he says, into depression over the no-smoking-inside rule, and one day passed away. "That decision," wrote Coghill, "has had a devastating impact on the health and welfare of some of the 11 veteran newcomers that I have since visited."
However, long-term care facilities such as Perley and Rideau are permitted smoking-room exemptions under the provincial act. At first, the centre's governing board of directors said no to it. All the smoking rooms were shut down on day one without notice. One room even had demeaning yellow and black police-type tapes across the door saying Do Not Enter.
Staff are not allowed to assist smokers -- such as lighting their cigarettes -- and can help them to go outside and back in only if there's available staff, which there isn't always.
The act specifies smokers must stay nine metres from the building, but so far no Metre Monitors have been observed with tape measures harassing smokers who might be, say, only 8.7 metres away. Perley and Rideau has provided outside canopies for the smokers, but they don't keep rain, snow, and cold from entering, and one blew away the other day in an ice storm.
The board, at a meeting in September when it heard pro-exemption submissions, reversed its decision in a 6-5 vote. It would permit a smoking area if it met provincial standards. But the centre -- whose operating budget next year will show a deficit of $950,000 -- will not pay the cost.
It also made it clear that a smoking room will be only "transitional" towards a total non-smoking policy. Clearly, the centre is hoping this will be achieved through attrition. There's a year-long waiting list to get into Perley and Rideau and the eligible -- some hard-core smokers -- are told the centre is non-smoking pending the possibility of a room, and should it get one it will be only "transitional." The discouragement is implicit.
Greg Fougere, executive director of Perley and Rideau: "I think it'd be several years before the transition happens. Of the 608 long-term care homes in Ontario, only 20 have applied for the exemption. Yes, I'm concerned about people in their 80s having to go outside to smoke. But they're adults and I would hope they'd dress appropriately."
Fred Warner wrote a letter in October to the Imperial Tobacco Canada Foundation asking for financial help. He signed his name, but got a form letter back a month later addressed "Dear Sir/Madam" saying applications can be made only on-line. Warner isn't computer literate.
With the help of Paul Finn, managing director of Perley and Rideau's foundation, an electronic request was submitted. Imperial has acknowledged receiving it, nothing more.
One of the most powerful pro-exemption submissions in September to Perley and Rideau's board was from Elaine Whittemore who had a "legal responsibility" for an elderly World War Two naval vet at the centre.
Reading from her prepared script, she said: "As 80% of us don't smoke, why should we care and pander to the wishes of the 25 or so war veterans or elderly residents who smoke in your facility -- let them butt out or go outside with their walkers and wheelchairs, that will cure them in a hurry during the winter."
How to help
And then, addressing the centre's offer of smoking cessation programs: "The ridiculous and uncaring notion that 80 or 90-year-olds can be taught to cure their addictions of 70 years or so ... implies ignorance as well as arrogance, and most certainly a lack of empathy."
Do you have empathy for our veterans in this, their new, and certainly final, war? Are you a good samaritan who can help achieve the $70,000?
If so, contact Paul Finn at 613-526-7173. Mail a cheque -- you'll get a tax receipt -- to Paul Finn, Managing Director, Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre, 1750 Russell Rd., Ottawa, Ont. K1G 5Z6. Make sure you specify it be allocated to the cost of the smoking room. Or, you can stop by in person with your cheque at Perley and Rideau.
Should you do so, and should you see some vets huddled outside in the cold, the rain, the snow, the wind with their wheelchairs, walkers, and canes for one of the only pleasures they have left, say hello and offer a handshake to our finest of the finest.