Australian smokers have had it tough for years, with tobacco control advocates leading the argument and able to bring in draconian legislation. Take this latest case in the state of Queensland, where the police are going after society’s most vulnerable, just because they happen to smoke.
Mental health inpatients are being fined if caught smoking by Queensland’s state health agency, and are perfectly fine with their stance and aggressive enforcement methods. The Courier-Mail ran a story saying that “health officers” are being sent with armed police to dish out the fines to patients.
A spokesman from Queensland Health said that there were many reported cases in private health facilities of patients smoking in non-smoking areas, and that environmental health officers had been brought into help control this. The spokesman added that police were sometimes required on site to help identify patients.
Enforcement has been clumsy at best and intimidating at worst, with health officers and armed police slapping a $200 fine on a schizophrenic woman who had been caught smoking. However, the patient had no clue what was happening when given the fine, which is why the story gained traction after the mother of the patient complained about the treatment of her daughter to the agency.
According to her mother, the patient was fined for smoking in a shaded area where it was banned. But otherwise she would have to walk long distances in the searing heat to smoke – doing this left her badly sunburnt. This is no way to treat mental health patients.
The spokesman refused to divulge on this exact case when pressed, but reaffirmed his commitment to Queensland Health’s policy, noting that there were warnings to smokers about the smoking laws, and that attempts have been made to help patients abide by these laws.
Queensland Health argued that the legislation was in place to protect the wellbeing of everybody, commenting that non-smokers and even smokers shouldn’t be subject to other people’s cigarette smoke. But how does intimidating a schizophrenic woman with armed police and environmental health officers do that? Zealous tobacco control measures have left a warped view of compassion.
Tobacco control extends far beyond Queensland’s mental health institutions, with strongly enforced laws on smoking in restricted areas. The Queensland Health spokesman added that the government was especially going after those who have historically failed to abide by the tobacco laws.
Smokers and vapers in Australia have it as tough as anywhere. In addition to massive taxes on cigarettes, nicotine without smoking is prohibited. It’s a measure that puts smokers in a very difficult position with no easy stepping stone to a healthier life. But tobacco control thrives Down Under, with Simon Chapman and the like so vehemently against smoking and Big Tobacco that they’re unwilling to see past a country with no smoking or vaping products.
Queensland is even worse than the rest of Australia though when it comes to intimidating tactics. The state has established a toll-free number so people can report if they know anybody in possession of vaporizers, e-cigarettes or other smokeless nicotine products. Next they’ll be treating them as Schedule I substances.
Despite the doom and gloom, vaping advocates in Australia have a movement to legalize e-cigarettes, but it’s a dirty, ongoing fight. The country is vehemently anti-smoking, with tobacco companies forced to sell products in plain packaging with health warnings. To win the vaping debate in Australia, making a clear distinction between smoking and vaping, and showing how e-cigarettes aren’t just a substitute device, but a device to help smokers quit will be key.