Queensland: Police Punish Mentally Ill Patients That Smoke

Australian tobacco control has always been authoritarian, and even downright aggressive in its war on nicotine. But the state of Queensland has showed the rest of the country who’s boss when it comes to pushing smokers around.

Queensland Health is sending armed police with its “environmental health officers” to write citations for smoking on the grounds of mental hospitals, according to a story in The Courier-Mail.

The state health agency is actually issuing fines to mental health inpatients. And the agency told the newspaper they don’t plan on changing their enforcement procedures.

“Our environmental health officers regularly respond to complaints by staff, visitors and patients at private health facilities of people lighting up in no-smoking areas,” a Queensland Health spokesman told the Courier-Mail. “On occasion, police accompany environmental health officers to sites for co-ordinated action between these two State Government agencies and to assist with securing identification details.”

The story started when the mother of a schizophrenic woman complained to the agency about her daughter being confronted by an agency officer — accompanied by armed police — who issued her a $200 fine, despite the patient not being able to comprehend what was happening.

“Queensland Health cannot comment on individuals who have been fined however we make every attempt to deter smokers from breaking the laws, including giving verbal and written warnings, before issuing infringement notices,” said the spokesman.

Queensland Health told the paper that there are no exemptions. The laws exist “to protect everyone, including those who smoke, from harm caused by tobacco and exposure to cigarette smoke.” What about the harm to a terrified mentally ill woman being terrorized by Queensland’s smoking police?

Now they’re intimidating and fining the most unfortunate and helpless people in society -- for the crime of smoking.

“The Queensland Government will continue to investigate ways to stop people from smoking in restricted areas,” the spokesman said. “That includes conducting targeted enforcement on public and private properties, particularly those with a history of noncompliance.”

The country is already brutalizing smokers and vapers. They raise cigarette prices sky high with taxes, but make nicotine without smoking illegal. And whenever the topic of legalization comes up, they trot out ancient quit-or-die tobacco control totem Simon Chapman to explain that Big Tobacco is coming for your children.

But Queensland is always willing to go the extra mile. This is the state that has a toll-free number to report your friends and neighbors for possessing illegal nicotine products like vapes. Now they’re intimidating and fining the most unfortunate and helpless people in society — for the crime of smoking. And they’re proud of it.

You win the prize, Queensland. You’re the worst.

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Jim McDonald