The Anti Crusade Against The Elderly
W. Hamilton

Date of original release: 03/16/01

The powerful and wealthy Robert Wood Johnson Foundation [RWJF], which receives virtually all its billions from stock ownership in pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, has been a big player and a major source of funding for anti-smoker programs and grants ever since Johnson & Johnson began to market nicotine replacement products. Basically, RWJF funds any study or program that will raise the price of cigarettes and promote the use of "cessation" products (such as J&J's Nicotrol). The foundation is also big on promoting smoking bans, no doubt in the hope that more smokers will try to quit smoking and purchase "nicotine replacement" products.

Not content with attempting to ban smoking in the workplace, in restaurants and bars, and on virtually all modes of public transportation, the anti-tobacco/pharmacological cartel is now campaigning to ban smoking in facilities for the elderly.

In paving the way for local and national smoking bans in nursing homes, retirement homes, and assisted living facilities, the RWJF has awarded a $345,065 "research" grant to attorney James Bergman of The Center for Social Gerontology, Inc. Entitled "Smoking Policies in Elderly Facilities: Assessment of Current Policies & Development of Model Policies," the "study" will sniff out current smoking policies in several facilities for the elderly. It will then develop "model" smoking policies for facilities for the elderly and "stimulate the adoption of the model smoking policies and practices at the federal, state, and local/facility levels."

After the "study" is completed, a "Smoke-free Older Americans Report" will be sent out to the Aging Network and "the tobacco control community" in order to "stimulate the adoption of smoke-free policies in these key facilities serving the elderly." The results "will also be broadly disseminated to the media and general public." Of course they will.

In short, the foundation is paying a lawyer big bucks to write "model" laws to force nursing homes, assisted living facilities and retirement homes to ban all smoking by their elderly residents and then to work at the national, state, and local levels to make sure these inhumane laws pass.

Apparently it matters not that such laws will impose a devastating hardship on elderly smokers and endanger their health.

Some facilities for the elderly have already banned smoking indoors, and as a result of these draconian bans, elderly smokers have died or been injured because they were forced to go out in the elements to have a cigarette.

Just a week before Christmas in l998, a 78-year-old woman froze to death when she went outside her apartment in a Canadian senior center to have a cigarette and the door locked behind her. Her pitiful cries for help were not heard, and she died alone in the 18 degree below zero Winnipeg night.

In the Brentwood Care Centre in Calgary, elderly smokers must go outdoors to a trailer to have a cigarette. Several have fallen or been injured when they attempted to roll their wheelchairs up or down the ramp to the trailer. One 84 year-old woman fell into a snowdrift in her wheelchair. Several have fallen inside the trailer and could not get help.

The Greater Victoria Hospice, a unit in the Royal Jubilees Hospital which prepares patients for immanent death, was forced by the regional medical health officer for Greater Victoria (Canada) to ban smoking indoors entirely, even though some of the dying patients were too weak to be moved from their beds and wheeled outdoors in the elements to have a cigarette.

Baptist Terrace, a senior living facility in Orlando, Florida, banned smoking not only indoors but outside as well, even in the parking lot. Smokers at the facility were told in a newsletter they would have three choices: "(1) stop smoking; (2) smoke away from Baptist Terrace property, and [sic] (3) leave and live somewhere else."

Most smoking bans are unnecessary and unfair, but none are so inhumane as those imposed on the elderly. For many elderly smokers, having a cigarette is one of the few joys they have left. To force them to go outside no matter what the weather, no matter how disabled they might be, no matter even if they are dying, is despicable beyond belief.

What kind of people would do this to our senior citizens? Among others, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, eager to make more money for itself and its pharmaceutical partner Johnson & Johnson. After all, instead of smoking, the old and the dying can slap on a patch for comfort and solace. Cold comfort, indeed.

Click here for a summary of the RWJF-funded "study".

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