We put an ashtray in the exhibition because it was central to my memories of meetings of Lothian Users Forum in the 1990s:
And the other thing I remember is the amount of smoking that went on [laughter] and when sort of rules were brought, because I don’t smoke, to minimise it, that only two people could smoke at any one time could smoke or only the person who had the ashtray could smoke and people just staring at the ashtray waiting for it to become free. Even as a non smoker I wasn’t bothered, but I remember there was a really strong sense that people had to smoke, that it was their right to smoke and I don’t think could believe at the time that hospitals would become smoke free or people would have to stand outside meetings to have a smoke, you know that was kind of unthinkable at the time. I’m sure at meetings I was often the only person who didn’t smoke, but that was a big thing then.It is strange that so few people referred to smoking in their interviews. It was a big thing, in my mind. Maybe as a non-smoker, I really noticed it.
The smoking rules came in later, in EUF days. It was contentious because of the purpose smoking served. Many people started smoking in hospital, for instance. A cigarette was a way of bonding between staff and patients, a way of relieving boredom and stress, it was part of being a mental patient.
So when people came together to talk about mental health services, people lit up, offered one another cigarettes, bonded with each other...
Do you have memories of smoking in meetings, of the debates and arguments about smoking in meetings, about the rights and wrongs of smoking bans on the wards and in day services?