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Chilly Days For Smokers

By Jim Algie
Wednesday, October 09, 2002 - 08:00

Local news - The Lee Manor residents who smoke really smoke.

It’s more than just a sociable puff after supper. Ron Hutton talks about his 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. cigarettes.

After decades of smoking, Bruce Button, 79, describes the pleasures of his well-charred pipe as the only ones remaining. He always has his straight-stemmed pipe with him, either slipped into a vest pocket or wedged in his mouth.

“What would we do if we didn’t have that?” Button said recently from his wheelchair near Lee Manor where he has lived for hree years. “You can’t go around drinking beer. Beer costs too much money.”

Button’s habit is to light his pipe every two hours or so. He can’t remember when he started or why.

Since a Grey County ban on smoking took effect Sept. 3 and shut down a third-floor lounge in the building, Button and a group of as many as 11 other residents have begun heading outside to smoke.

The Residents’ council president, Hutton appealed recently to county officials either to change the new bylaw allowing the use of an existing smoking lounge or address a variety of safety issues for outdoor smokers as winter approaches.

In response to the law, officials replaced a raised garden bed with stone dust and gravel as a base for the new smoking area. It conforms to the rules which prohibit tobacco smoke within 30 metres of the building.

Button was among a group of four smokers clustered in a court yard outside the back entrance. He said he’ll be there in his wheelchair even when the snow flies.

Some of the smokers wore light jackets. A few wore caps against the cool temperature and pale autumn sun.

A pine tree provides the only shelter. From individuals in the group come the occasional syrupy coughs of long-term smokers.

Hutton, 62, had a pack of Rothmans tucked between the seat pad and left arm of his wheelchair. The retired practical nurse who grew up and worked in Owen Sound, is slight and drawn. He has multiple sclerosis and is younger than most Lee Manor residents.

The nerve condition affects muscle control and forced Hutton’s early retirement eight years ago.

Initially, he managed with a walker in an apartment of his own. The progressive illness eventually put him in a wheelchair and led him to a nursing home.

Hutton has smoked for 29 years and is not about to quit. If there were any hope of a change in his multiple sclerosis, he would consider quitting.

As it is, the cigarettes calm him. He thinks of it as medication.

“I could be on the patch but I don’t want it,” Hutton said. “I don’t want any drugs other than my cigarettes. It’s the nicotine that keeps me stable.”

“Harry, who sits over here, he and I are often here sometimes at two o’clock in the morning,” Hutton said, gesturing towards a man sitting nearby.

“We’ve been caught in the rain. We’ve been soaked. We sit under the tree for a bit of shelter.”

Hutton’s demands to administrators list 13 points in all.

They include a ramp for wheelchair access to the back patio, shelter from the elements, a call bell to alert staff to problems as well as improved lighting and grading to eliminate potential tripping hazards from uneven ground and paving in the area. Staff lock the doors at 9 p.m., making it hard for some residents to get back in after leaving to smoke.

As it is, Hutton must accept that when he goes out after 9 p.m., he’ll have to work his way around the building in his wheelchair to the front door to be re-admitted. These days, the process takes about 20 minutes. Winter will make it worse.

“We’ll still struggle to get out,” Hutton said. “If we can’t get out of the building, we’ll have to have somebody to take us.”

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