Pensioners beg Blair to let them smoke

RESIDENTS of a sheltered homes complex are today begging with the Prime Minister to let them smoke.As the rest of the country gears up to the smoking ban which will come into force on July 1, residents of Yetton Ward House, Felixstowe fear they will be prisoners in their rooms and that it will ruin their community spirit, putting an end to their social events.

By Richard Cornwell

RESIDENTS of a sheltered homes complex are today begging with the Prime Minister to let them smoke.

As the rest of the country gears up to the smoking ban which will come into force on July 1, residents of Yetton Ward House, Felixstowe fear they will be prisoners in their rooms and that it will ruin their community spirit, putting an end to their social events.

Now they are pleading with Tony Blair to let them carry on smoking when the new ban applying to public places and workplaces comes into force this summer.

Over the past two years residents of the 31 flats in Cricket Hill Road have had their communal lounge and kitchen refurbished and have been making great use of it.

They have built up a real community spirit - with bingo, parties, sing-a-longs, lunches, and raised money for a mini-bus for outings.

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Resident Mima McKenna, who has written to Mr Blair, said if residents, many of whom have mobility problems, had to keep going back to their room to smoke, they would be deterred from socialising.

She said: “We only use the communal facilities for socialising and, unless invited, members of the public do not have access to it but apparently it has to be no smoking under the new law.

“The tenants are worried sick and feel their world is being knocked from under their feet.

“Surely nobody expects an 80 or 90 year old to keep walking back to their flat or going outside in winter for a cigarette.

“Everybody, smokers and non-smokers alike, want our leisure activities to carry on but as most of the work is done by people who smoke they are not prepared to spend the best part of a day without a cigarette. For many, it's the only way they meet other people - most never go out.

“If this happens it will isolate people in their small flats and we will have a complex full of people with no social intercourse, resulting in depression and stress-related illness.”

A spokeswoman for Flagship Housing, which owns Yetton Ward, said the group has been in contact with council environmental health departments, including Suffolk Coastal, to clarify the situation with regard to residents' flats and communal areas.

She said: “The flats are classified as a 'domestic dwelling' and will therefore be exempt from the legislation. However, all communal areas are classed as a work place and the legislation will apply. A representative from Suffolk Coastal has visited the scheme and answered questions put forward by residents.”

Will you be affected by the no smoking laws? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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