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Editor’s comment: Smoke ban at Homerton has my backing

PUBLISHED: 09:30 26 August 2017

Homerton University Hospital is planning to ban smoking from patients' homes. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA

Homerton University Hospital is planning to ban smoking from patients' homes. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

I applaud Homerton Hospital for its efforts to protect staff and patients from smoke both on and off the premises.

Smoking has no place in a hospital. It puts an enormous burden on the healthcare system even as its barons rake in millions through others’ misery.

But while I find it unpleasant, I recognise there are reasons people do it. It is a social activity and some may not have the emotional energy to invest in beating a lifelong addiction. Yes, it’s bad for you, but so are a lot of things we all do, generally without attracting the degree of contempt smokers receive. We live in a capitalist society whose very survival requires us to develop addictions to commodities, whether they be cigarettes or more “acceptable” things. So I don’t think smokers should be blamed or stigmatised.

Some will say the Homerton’s intention of stopping people smoking in their own homes – albeit only for an hour prior to visits by health workers – is an unacceptable infringement of liberty. That the health service is there to treat, not judge or punish.

But I don’t agree. I believe the NHS should lead the charge against the cigarette industry that cares so little for our health, and making it less convenient for people to smoke is an important part of that. I don’t believe anyone should be banned from doing anything in their own space if it harms only themselves – but when a health worker has entered a person’s home to treat them, I believe that home ceases to be entirely the person’s own space. It is also the worker’s space, and he or she has a right to do their job in a safe environment.

The trust must back up this ban by empowering the people it affects, whether by supplying patches, offering counselling or educating them.

But it is perfectly within its rights to protect those in its care.

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