Addiction has the power to control lives. "I've been smoking for 14 years," said Lance Bartlett. He says his smoking led to alcoholism... and then to drugs. "Moved up to prescription pills and heroin."
He's now a volunteer at The Turning Point, a center offering recovery support for addicts. He's been in and out of treatment centers for years and says being able to keep smoking helped him get through rehab for other drugs. But soon, smoking will no longer be an option for recovering addicts. The state wants to ban tobacco at treatment centers. "What we're looking to do is have, having the treatment providers that provide substance abuse treatment implement tobacco-free campus policies," said Vermont Department of Health Deputy Commissioner Barbara Cimaglio.
The health department is making programs like Quit Tobacco available to patients who need help quitting. Employees at treatment centers will also receive training to help with the transition. "The reality is more people with addiction die from tobacco and the related diseases than they do from alcohol or drugs," Cimaglio said.
Other states, including New York, have had similar policies in place for years. But some recovering addicts think the new policy may stop others from seeking help."Your brain is just telling you its the one thing that you can do and when you're taking away one thing, it's hard to take away two at the same time," said Christine Erickson. The Turning Point volunteer was a patient at Maple Leaf Farm for alcohol addiction and has been clean for 2 months, but she says she wouldn't have made it through without cigarettes. "And if that were not possible, I would be more on the delaying side of getting help in all honesty," she said.
But officials at centers like Maple Leaf are confident patients will make a smooth transition. "I think it's one of those things that you monitor. If it shows an adverse result, then you reconsider the policy, but I'm not convinced that that will not happen," said the organization's Executive Director Bill Young.
And it's not just patients -- employees at treatment centers will also have to give up tobacco. "Our smoking staff says we should be smoke-free, so they're pretty clear about it," Young said.