29 Mar 2009

Mental health hospital goes smokefree early

12:43 pm on 29 March 2009

Waikato Hospital's mental health facility is to go smokefree two years ahead of schedule.

The Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre is the largest psychiatric centre in the country to introduce no smoking for its patients, staff and visitors.

The centre's clinical director, Andrew Darby, says that between 80% and 90% of psychiatric patients smoke so it is an important step to make the hospital environment safe.

Dr Darby says smoking not only causes a significant number of medical problems but can also make patients' mental conditions worse.

He says smoking was often used in the past as a tool to calm patients and some people picked up the habit while in treatment.