If smoking bans are supposed to be for the greater good and public health, how much is too much?

JoAnn Clemons, 75, smokes a cigarette on the sidewalk in front of the the Aspen Meadows Retirement Community in Billings, Mont., Wednesday May 10, 2006. Clemons, 75, has been living at the facility since August, when her leg was amputated. She received a letter Monday stating she had until June 7 to leave for violating the community's smoking ban.

(AP Photo/Billings Gazette, David Grubbs)

Livingston woman evicted for smoking

By The Associated Press - 05/12/2006

BILLINGS (AP) — A Livingston woman has been evicted from a retirement community for violating its smoking ban.

JoAnn Clemons, 75, has been living at the Aspen Meadows Retirement Community since August, when her leg was amputated. She received a letter Monday stating she had until June 7 to leave.

The community’s nonsmoking policy prohibits smoking anywhere on its campus, including the driveway, parking lot and interior sidewalks.

Residents are not allowed to have cigarettes, lighters or matches in their rooms. They are to leave smoking materials at the nursing station, checking them out when they go out to smoke.

Clemons said that both times she is accused of violating the nonsmoking policy, she was on public property — once on the city sidewalk just outside the campus and once in the street between two parked cars.

Anne Gonzalez, director of continuing care services at Aspen Meadows, signed Clemons’ eviction notice. Gonzalez said Wednesday she was prohibited by federal law from commenting specific-ally about any resident.

‘‘I can say that smoking and fire present one of the greatest dangers to a long-term care center that there is,’’ Gonzalez said.

Jim Duncan, president of Billings Clinic Foundation and a spokesman for Billings Clinic, which owns and operates the retirement commu-nity, said health concerns and the presence of oxygen bottles are part of the reason for the regulations. He added that some residents have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, and if allowed to have matches or lighters they could present a danger to themselves and others.

Duncan said no action would have been taken against Clemons unless there had been a ‘‘clear violation of policy.’’

Clemens said she used to smoke heavily, but cut back after March 2005, when she started having health problems.

‘‘I don’t smoke but maybe one cigarette a week,’’ she said. ‘‘I am not addicted to cigarettes. I smoke to relax.’’

Clemons said she knew of the rule prohibiting residents from keeping smoking materials in their rooms, but for months she’d been doing so and going out to smoke and nobody asked her during all that time to give up her cigarettes and lighter.

‘‘I’m a stubborn old gal, ain’t I?’’ she said. ‘‘I’m pitiful when it comes to people telling me what to do.’’

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