Old-age home fined for demented woman smoking publicly

Haifa old age home provided wheelchair-bound resident three daily cigarettes.

April 22, 2010 10:35
2 minute read.

smoking [illustrative]. (photo credit: Channel 10)

The Haifa Small Claims Court has fined an old age home in the city NIS 8,500 plus court costs for allowing a demented woman in a wheelchair to smoke in a public area the three daily cigarettes its staff gave her.

The plaintiffs – siblings who regularly visited their mother who lives in the institution – each sued the old age home for NIS 10,000.

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Judge Eran Koton wrote a long judgement handed down on Sunday to the plaintiffs and the defendant, the owners of a chain of three retirement homes called Beit Ya’ara. The plaintiffs, who provided photos, showed that the old woman smoked in a chair near the entrance to the facility, using an ash tray supplied by the staff that was put on a table near her and placing the butts in a paper cup.

The staff never wheeled the old woman outdoors or to the retirement home’s smoking room, despite numerous complaints from each of the plaintiffs who sat with their mother in the public space shared by many residents and relatives.

The old age home management claimed the plaintiffs should not be allowed to sue the owners separately as they visited the same woman, often together, but the judge rejected this, stating that the health of each individual relative was exposed to the toxic smoke at different times and to a different extent. Thus the payments ranged from NIS 500 to NIS 2,300, based on each relative’s exposure to the toxic smoke. The judge concluded that no-smoking laws relating to public places must be enforced so that public, including elderly people with health problems of their own, can be protected from harm.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on an article in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics saying that R.J Reynolds Tobacco, the second-largest cigarette maker in the US, is test marketing a nicotine-candy product – supposedly aimed at adults – called Camel Orbs. The journal article and an editorial said the product, made of finely ground tobacco with mint or cinnamon flavoring, resembled the ordinary mint candy product called Tic Tacs.

The journal article, by Prof. Greg Connolly of the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues, continued that the tobacco industry, increasingly placed under government restrictions and fearing a declining Western market due to lower smoking rates and dying customers, was looking for new customers using smokeless tobacco. Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, said the study, whose authors accused the company of “making it look like a piece of candy” and thus “recklessly playing with the health of children.”

A Reynolds spokesman denied the product looks like Tic Tac mints and stated that it is not sold to children.

The newspaper reported that nearly 2,000 cases of children under six who ingest smokeless tobacco products were reported during a period of three years to poison control centers. Connolly estimated that the nicotine in 10 to 17 Camel Orbs could kill an infant.

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