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Keywords:

  • legal;
  • occupational health;
  • safety and welfare (OHSW);
  • psychiatry;
  • smoking

Objective: In the current climate of growing concern for the harmful effects of cigarette smoking and passive smoking, the high prevalence of this activity within psychiatric settings can no longer be ignored. This paper reviews the findings of research in a public stand-alone psychiatric facility in South Australia where significant legal and occupational health, safety and welfare (OHSW) concerns were apparent for both patients and staff as a consequence of the strong culture of smoking in that setting. The aim of this paper is to raise awareness of this significant health and legal issue and to inform policy and practice change.

Method: This paper reviews legal issues associated with smoking in psychiatric settings and presents relevant findings from previous studies in which in-depth interviews and observations in community and inpatient psychiatric settings were conducted.

Results: Significant legal and OHSW concerns were apparent for both patients and staff in all settings. The potential for future litigation was high.

Conclusions: There are a number of legal and OHSW implications of continued smoking by staff and patients within mental health settings. Several administrative, clinical and cultural practices need to change within this system of care in order to improve overall patient wellbeing and to avoid the potential for litigation by patients and staff.