Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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The national smoking ban - a year on

May 23 2009
Users and staff of most shelters and day centres have had few problems adjusting A year after smoking was banned in public spaces, users and staff of shelters and day centres appear to be reaping the benefits of smoke-free living. Amanda Addo, director of the Spires Centre, London, says users had no real difficulty getting used to the ban. "Before, it was possible to smoke everywhere in and around our centre, so we had to make sure they knew that would no longer be the case," she says. "We thought it would be harder than it has been, but our users knew that smoking wasn't being banned only at the Spires, but everywhere, because the rules were changing. It has been a brilliant year with no smoking." Ms Addo says that in the run-up to the ban's introduction in July, 2007, passive smoking was becoming a concern for non-smokers among centre users and staff. Other London centres - like the Broadway day centre, in Shepherd's Bush, and the Whitechapel Mission - were ahead of the game. Broadway banned smoking in 2005 after a series of debates, and the Whitechapel Mission went smoke-free in 2006. However, elsewhere things haven't always been so easy, particularly for homeless smokers who imbibe. Oxford Night Shelter, a drop-in service in the centre of Oxford, has dedicated 'wet room' where street drinkers can drink alcohol to encourage heavy drinkers to come into a more controlled environment where they'll not be troubled by the police. Obviously, with the smoking ban the centre's users have begun using the streets outside. As a solution it is waiting for planning permission to expand its facilities with an "enclosed yard", accessible only from inside the shelter, where people will be able to smoke and drink. The decision to build the yard was taken as people gathering outside to smoke and drink were seen as behaving in an 'antisocial' way, according to local press reports. However, according to Lesley Dewhurst, the director of the shelter, "Many of the people gathering outside are not users of the hostel. While some are there legitimately, many are there just to exploit the users, perhaps by trying to sell them drugs. By building a yard that is only accessible from the inside, we are trying to protect vulnerable people from those who want to prey upon them".