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Give CAMH patients their cigarettes back

TORONTO – The union representing more than 2000 workers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is asking their employer to step back from a controversial anti-smoking policy.

“Why is CAMH trying to cure patients of an addiction they didn’t come there for?” asks Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

The union says denying patients access to their cigarettes – even if they plan to smoke them off of CAMH’s property – is going too far and places both patients and staff at risk during forced addiction withdrawal.

CAMH has instituted a new policy where tobacco products can no longer be stored in lockers at the hospital site. Staff has been sent a memo where they are told to either mail the cigarettes back to the patient’s homes, store them (presumably until discharge) or destroy them.

“CAMH patients often arrive at the hospital after one of the worst periods in their lives,” says Thomas. “It strikes us as cruel to also force them to go through nicotine withdrawal while being treated for an unrelated illness.”

The union president says most of us would not choose the most stressful times of our lives to undertake smoking cessation. “Why is it different from those facing an mental illness?”

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