Minister clarifies province’s smoking policy in seniors homes

Dave Stewart
Published on April 9, 2014
Charlottetown-Lewis Point MLA Kathleen Casey asked government to clarify the province's smoking policy in seniors' homes. While smoking is banned in public places, seniors' care facilities are treated as homes, so residents are allowed to smoke in their rooms but not common areas.
Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

The issue of seniors smoking in provincial seniors' homes made it to the floor of the P.E.I. legislature on Tuesday.

Charlottetown-Lewis Point MLA Kathleen Casey rose during question period to ask Valerie Docherty, minister of community services and seniors, to clarify the province’s smoking policy in seniors’ homes.

Casey represents an area of the capital that has a significant number of seniors units.

Docherty said there have been some comments in the media and calls of frustrations over the smoking policy.

In 2009, the province designated some seniors’ buildings smoke-free or sections of them smoke-free.

Docherty said the intention was to move slowly in the direction of eliminating smoking from provincial seniors’ homes.

“We realize that we can’t have it totally non-smoking because we do have smokers,’’ Docherty said in an interview after question period.

“The problem where this comes from is I don’t smoke but you do. My tolerance for it might not be quite as good as the next person and some would like to see us implement the non-smoke policy in public buildings.’’

Docherty said while the seniors’ homes in question are public buildings they are also people’s homes.

Casey said the challenge is trying to co-exist in the same building in those where smoking is allowed. She also noted the smell of cigarette smoke can pose a health hazard to people who have pre-existing conditions.

Docherty said education is part of it.

“We have to make sure you as a resident who likes to smoke that you understand you can smoke in your own unit (and) you can smoke outside but you can’t smoke in the hallways and you can’t smoke in the common rooms.’’

She said all seniors are informed of what the policy is prior to moving in.

“I have a fear that sometimes that somebody will accept a unit next to somebody who is smoking to get in (the building) yet they’re not happy with the fact that there is a smoker beside them.’’

Docherty said smoke-free buildings will eventually become the norm but until then if anyone has a complaint that someone is smoking where they shouldn’t be to contact the department’s housing officers.

“We’ll follow up. We’re going to know if you smoke in your room. An eviction could happen, if indeed you are breaking the rules and you’re not dealing with the warnings.’’