In a nearly 2,000 word story on its front page, the New York Times (2/7, A1, Belluck, Subscription Publication) reports on new efforts by Federal and state health officials to try to curb smoking in mental health facilities. The article explains that some institutions have banned smoking altogether, while some still allow it, but only outdoors or during scheduled times. However, “occasionally, hospitals that banned smoking have reinstated it to avoid losing patients. Moreover, smoking is so deeply ingrained that smoke-free hospitals can only dent the problem; many patients are now hospitalized only for short stints and resume smoking later.” Recent CDC data show that mentally ill Americans smoke at rates 70% higher than those without illnesses. Demonstrating the ingrained nature of cigarettes in mental health facilities, CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said, “In my very first job as an aide in a psychiatric hospital. If patients behaved better they got additional cigarettes.” The article also notes that National Institutes on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow pointed to a possible scientific link between mental illness and the desire to smoke.
— “Smoking, Once Used to Reward, Faces a Ban in Mental Hospitals, “Pam Belluck, The New York Times, February 6, 2013.