The freedom to choose your own health?
I just finished reading Sean Dent’s excellent article When I think of Smoking: A Nurses’ Perspective.
It is a moving account of his experience with an end-stage COPD patient who had literally smoked herself to death. I have seen the same thing too many times, both in my work and in my own family.
Most of us have.
And it still astounds me the number of nurses and respiratory therapy personnel who light up at every opportunity! I have decided it is harder to stop SMOKING than it is to stop drinking, using drugs or just about anything else.
Perhaps it is because cigarettes and other tobacco products are not only a LEGAL substance, if one is old enough to buy and use them, but also very much a part of our national culture?
I am old enough to remember when (1970) the advertising of cigarettes was banned from television by Congress! (Actually, that was a question on “Jeopardy!” the other night.)
However, even though I have never smoked or lived with anyone who smoked, I believe in the freedom to choose what adults do in their private lives, and that includes the right to choose whether or not to smoke, drink, have sex or anything which does not infringe on the rights of others. And we all know by now that secondary smoke is more dangerous than that which is inhaled by the active smoker.
Sounds like a conflict, doesn’t it? Especially when one of the latest trends in hospital hiring policies is to forbid the use of legal tobacco products in any form, at any time, by an employee. This is happening right now even in parts of the country where tobacco is grown and sold at market to buyers from the product manufacturing companies.
Now, the only way to test for tobacco use is through hair analysis–an expensive and all-inclusive type of test. So what if YOU personally do not smoke but live with someone who does? Yes, Virginia, you will test “positive” for tobacco. And who knows what else is in your hair? The pain med you took last month after a root canal? The champagne you drank at your sister’s wedding? Any type of medications you have taken in the past few months, as well as your DNA?
I believe that adults have the right to choose whether or not to use legal substances responsibly on their own time. I believe that privately owned businesses such as restaurants have the right to ban smoking on their property. And of course, public institutions such as hospitals which receive federal tax dollars such as Medicare have no option under the Law.
If a hospital system forbids its employees to smoke on their own time, what’s next? No drinking of wine at dinner, only certain types of birth control may be used if you work in a Catholic hospital, no vehicles that emit hydrocarbons may park on the premises?
Sound outrageous? It SHOULD. Because it is happening right under our noses and we are allowing someone else to make what should be personal decisions for us, all for the privilege of working in their facility.
Just a little too much Big Brother for my taste.
Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden (Phaedrus).
Nurse Rene has been an RN since 1978; CCRN since 1989 and attained a BSN in 2010. She has worked in virtually every specialty from Neonatology to Neurosurgery and is a Member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society with a particular interest in helping students and new grads develop to their full potential. She's been married for 33 years and has a keen interest in history and in current issues as nursing continues to develop as a Real Profession. When not spoiling the grandchildren, she enjoys sewing, cooking, kayaking, camping and travel. She likes all music which does not hurt her ears, watching NCIS, Leverage, Top Gear and Criminal Minds and reads books written by Clive Cussler, Miss Manners, Erma Bombeck and Tom Clancy. She enjoys collecting Quotations for use in her writings.
By Nurse Rene