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Smoking Ban should Include Mental Health Units

Medical Specialists have cautioned against exempting mental health units from the ban on smoking in public places, which will only cause the decline in the health of people// suffering mental ailments. Smoking accounts for the highest cause of preventable illness and premature death in the United Kingdom, with nearly 106,000 people losing their lives to the effects of smoking.

The Health Act 2006 will make all enclosed public and work places in England and Wales smoke-free environments, but may exclude some mental health settings. This would be a mistake, argue Jonathan Campion and colleagues, as the prevalence of smoking is high among people with mental health problems.

Nearly three quarters of people with schizophrenia, affective psychosis, and other mental health disorders who live in mental health settings are smokers, and they are more likely to be heavier and more dependent smokers than the general population, they write.

As a result, people with mental health problems are at a substantially greater risk of premature death from smoking related diseases than is seen in the general population. This is particularly important given that those with mental illness already experience high levels of social exclusion and health inequality, which are exacerbated by smoking.

Arguments for excluding mental health settings from the new smoke-free legislation are that they are places of residence and that some patients are detained under the Mental Health Act. However, health and safety legislation places a duty on NHS employers to protect staff and patients from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

Another argument is that preventing people smoking is an infringement of human rights, particularly for detained patients. But the Human Rights Act 1998 allows an individual choice only if that does not endanger others. Furthermore, this argument is not applied to other forms of drug misuse, and people are not a
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