Page last updated at 00:53 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 01:53 UK

Smoke ban for mental health units

A cigarette
People with mental health problems tend to be smokers

The smoking ban is being extended to the buildings and grounds of mental health hospitals in England.

The sites were given an extra year to bring the smoking ban into effect to help patients quit the habit.

The Department of Health says the law goes "towards ending an unacceptable health inequality".

Mind, the mental health charity, says inpatients must be given more support and offered recreational services to replace the social aspect of smoking.

Charities have been campaigning for more help and support to those patients who want to stop smoking.

Mental stress

According to Mind, 70% of people in mental health inpatient units smoke.

And 51% of people with bipolar disorder smoke 20 cigarettes a day, compared to just 8% of the general population smoking at this level, the charity adds.

Sophie Corlett, Mind's Policy Director says that mental health inpatients are the only group not allowed to smoke in their own living quarters and many of them smoke to pass the time or to socialise.

She said: "Hospitals need to provide people with alternative recreational facilities and opportunities to socialise once smoking is no longer an option."

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing, Ian Hulatt, says that someone having a major psychotic episode would find it very difficult to quit smoking, but the ban is a move in the right direction.

He said: "It's a difficult ban to implement but with help and cessation clinics, changes will happen. It will take time but it will be a positive outcome.

"Mental health hospitals should not be excluded from the ban. It would be bad to perpetuate an unhealthy habit such as smoking."

The smoking den culture on in-patient wards is over
Professor Louis Appleby

Legal fight

Earlier this year, three inpatients from the high security Rampton Hospital in Nottinghamshire lost their high court battle for the right to smoke.

The patients argued that a ban on smoking "in the privacy of their own home" violated their human rights.

The judges ruled any interference with their rights was justified.

Lord Justice Pill said: "There is, in our view, powerful evidence that - in the interests of public health - strict limitations upon smoking and a complete ban in appropriate circumstances are justified."

The judge added the smoking ban was also justified by security difficulties posed by allowing inmates - many of whom have "dangerous, violent or criminal propensities" - to smoke outside in Rampton's grounds.

"Rampton is operated as a hospital by National Health Service staff and distinction between it and prisons and other accommodation is justified," he said.

Right direction

Louis Appleby, the government's National Director for Mental Health Services in England, said the ban was part of a wider set of measures to improve general health in mental health patients.

He said: "The smoking den culture on in-patient wards is over. We should no longer see smoking as so widespread that there is nothing we can do, or see patients' lives as so impoverished that smoking is harmless.

"This is a positive step towards ending an unacceptable health inequality - the high rate of smoking-related disease in people with mental illness."


SEE ALSO
Patients lose smoking ban appeal
20 May 08 |  Nottinghamshire
Patients argue for right to smoke
11 Mar 08 |  Nottinghamshire
'Robbed' of the right to smoke
27 Feb 08 |  Magazine

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