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Public Health Rep. 1996 Jan-Feb; 111(1): 66–70.
PMCID: PMC1381745

Resident smoking in long-term care facilities--policies and ethics.


Objective: To characterize smoking behavior, facility policies related smoking, and administrators' views of smoking-related problems in Veterans Affairs nursing home care units nationwide. Methods: An anonymous mail survey of long-term care facilities was administered to 106 nursing home supervisors at VA Medical Centers with nursing home care units. The response rate was 82%. Results: Administrators from 106 VA nursing home units reported smoking rates ranging from 5% to 80% of long-term care residents, with an average of 22%. Half of the nursing homes had indoor smoking areas. Frequent complaints from nonsmokers about passive smoke exposure were reported in 23% of the nursing homes. The nursing administrators reported that patient safety was their greatest concern. Seventy- eight percent ranked health effects to the smokers themselves a "major concern," while 70% put health effects to exposed nonsmokers in that category. Smoking in the nursing home was described as a "right" by 59% of respondents and a ¿privilege¿ by 67%. Some individuals reported that smoking was both a right and a privilege. Conclusion: Smoking is relatively common among VA long-term care patients. The promotion of personal autonomy and individual resident rights stressed in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 may conflict with administrative concerns about the safety of nursing home smokers and those around them.

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