Breaking addictions

New regulation bans tobacco use in programs for other dependencies

By now, most people understand the dangers of smoking and the benefits of a tobacco-free environment — but it never hurts to make the point again, and what better entity to do so than the state and what better time to start than the present?

On the anniversary of the Clean Indoor Air Act, the commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services announced a proposed Tobacco-Free regulation for all programs funded or certified by her office — no tobacco use in any facilities, any grounds under provider control or any vehicles owned, leased or operated by the programs.

That places New York in a group of states that require all of their chemical dependence prevention and treatment programs to become tobacco-free. The new regulation took affect July 24.

Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo presents a compelling argument for the need: Up to 92 percent of the chemically-dependent population smokes, even though the overall state average is 18.2 percent. Research shows that those in chemical dependence treatment programs are more likely to die from a tobacco-related illness than from alcoholism or drugs.

The new regulation should be a direct benefit to the 110,000 New Yorkers within the Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services system on any given day — but the state-funded agencies must also work to ensure that the new tobacco- free environment in those programs does not deter new or current clients.

Part of treating addiction is treating nicotine, said K. Michael Cummings, senior cancer research scientist and director of the Tobacco Control Program at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. More and more, Cummings said, experts find that people who are still smoking also tend to have other “comorbidities,” substance abuse problems and, possibly, mental health issues such as depression.

The percentage of those in New York state and nationally who smoke is declining, but those who do smoke tend to have fewer resources to quit — so if the state is investing funds to help people end their cocaine, alcohol or heroine addiction, nicotine addiction also should be treated.

This is a shift from the mind-set of years ago in the treatment field, when forcing clients to give up cigarettes was taboo. The belief was that quitting tobacco would have an adverse affect on getting addicts to quit alcohol or drugs. There have been enough studies completed now to suggest that is not the case, as Cummings said, adding that he hasn’t seen evidence that people will forgo substance abuse treatment because they can’t light up a cigarette indoors.
source: The Buffalo News,