By Jason Roberts
In response to The Guardian story on Oct. 2012 titled ‘Detox no smoking policy leads to patient drop-offs', the Heart and Stroke Foundation is pleased to voice its support for the recently established Health P.E.I. policy that bans smoking anywhere on the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility property.
It is unfortunate that some patients have reacted to Health P.E.I.'s September ruling by either leaving treatment or having their names removed from waiting lists. However, studies in other centres with similar smoking bans reveal that the establishment of non-smoking environments does not, in the end, significantly affect admissions or compliance with treatment for other addictions.
In 2002, Addiction Prevention and Treatment Services in Nova Scotia's Capital Health District announced the closure of its smoking room and implementation of a 100-per-cent tobacco-free policy. A follow-up file review showed that rates of self referral and length of stay in the detox unit did not differ significantly in the 12 months post-policy from the same period pre-policy. This finding surprised some, given that at admission to the inpatient addictions program, 75 per cent of patients, on average, were smokers.
Capital Health representatives feel that careful planning, effective nicotine withdrawal maintenance protocols and staff training, as well as raising the awareness of tobacco as an addiction throughout all of their services led to the successful implementation of the 100-per-cent tobacco-free policy.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable illness and premature death and a major cause of heart disease and stroke. According to Statistics Canada, 37,000 Canadians lose their lives every year to smoking-related illnesses. Non-smoking environments help to reduce rates of smoking, encourage people to quit and help to protect against smoking relapses.
Of equal importance is the well-being of non-smoking patients and staff at the facility, who deserve protection from the effects of second-hand smoke. Long-term exposure to second-hand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is a proven and lethal risk factor for heart disease and stroke, cancer and a number of respiratory diseases.
We know that nicotine is a highly addictive substance. By providing patients with support and free nicotine replacement therapy while they are being treated for other serious addictions, facility staff members have an excellent opportunity to help them quit smoking within a safe and nurturing environment.
Jason Roberts is P.E.I. board chair of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.