Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Smoking ban angers mental-health groups -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Reporter: Barbara Miller

ELEANOR HALL: It seems logical for a health department to enforce a no smoking rule but mental
health experts are warning the New South Wales Health Department that banning smoking in
psychiatric facilities could be dangerous for both patients and their carers.

The department though says it will push ahead with its plans, saying smoking is the number-one risk
to health.

Barbara Miller has our report.

BARBARA MILLER: Ashtrays will be removed from mental health centres, outdoor smoking areas closed
down and patients supplied with nicotine replacement therapies. But the New South Wales authorities
are making no apologies for the moves.

Liz Develin is the director of Health Advancement.

LIZ DEVELIN: Smoking is still the single biggest risk factor for death in New South Wales. It
out-rates alcohol. It out-rates overweight and obesity. And hence New South Wales Health must show
that smoking is just unacceptable and no-one should be exposed to environmental tobacco smoke.

BARBARA MILLER: Liz Develin says the ban will be gradually introduced, ensuring a smooth
transition.

LIZ DEVELIN: There's very good evidence published in psychiatric journals from across the world
where, where you do this properly, you don't see increased aggression or patients going off their
medication or not turning up for their mental health service, but it could happen if people don't
do it properly which is why we're providing very extensive guidance on how to do it.

BARBARA MILLER: But some mental health groups are worried. Desley Casey has been an acute mental
health patient several times and now works with the consumer group CAN Mental Health.

DESLEY CASEY: I think it's cruel, it's inhumane and it actually goes against the human rights of
people with mental illness.

BARBARA MILLER: Why do you think it's cruel?

DESLEY CASEY: Imagine that you're acutely unwell and you're locked in an inpatient unit where you
can't get out. You're a smoker. And now they're expecting you to go through withdrawal symptoms. So
basically your mental health is actually exacerbated and illness is exacerbated by the fact that
you're actually going through withdrawal symptoms.

BARBARA MILLER: David Crosbie the CEO of the Mental Health Council of Australia says a similar ban
at an institution in Victoria ended badly.

DAVID CROSBIE: In this case you had people who were under community-based orders to receive
treatment and, you know, were at risk of flight who were being taken outside the hospital grounds
to stand in a vacant paddock and there was at least one case where from that location they were
able to easily abscond.

In some situations I think the harm being done or that could be done by forcing people to either
give up smoking or remove themselves from a safe environment are very significant and they're not
things that we should be rushing into.

BARBARA MILLER: But anti-smoking advocates don't buy those arguments. Dr Andrew Penman is the chief
executive officer of the New South Wales Cancer Council.

ANDREW PENMAN: If you continue to reinforce smoking behaviour in people suffering from mental
illness you simply condemn them to a burden of chronic disease and an increasing burden of poverty,
which are going to stand in the way of rehabilitation in mental illness.

BARBARA MILLER: Desley Casey says she's under no illusions about the dangers of smoking but she
says stopping would be riskier.

DESLEY CASEY: I personally would not risk my mental health for the sake of actually looking after
my physical health. My mental health is more of a higher priority in the smoking department.

BARBARA MILLER: Most states and territories still have designated outdoor smoking areas in mental
health facilities. But the West Australian Government introduced a ban last year on smoking on the
grounds of all public health facilities, including mental health centres. However the WA Minister
for Mental Health Graham Jacobs is currently reviewing the policy after staff complaints about the
measures.

ELEANOR HALL: Barbara Miller reporting.