Open Letter to ASH from Dave Macpherson


Dear Mr Broughton – as probably the strongest anti-smoking advocate on the Hamilton City Council over the last decade or so, I have to say I am absolutely appalled at your knee-jerk, thoughtless reaction to the issue raised with you by the Waikato Times reporter, as published today

Some of your comments show that you, and perhaps your organisation, are unable to see the wood for the trees in this situation, or perhaps it should be that you are unable to see the cigarette for the smoke haze.

Your suggestion that I would be “making it easier for patients to smoke” is insulting to me, and demonstrates that you know little or nothing about the drivers of acute mental illness – the reason that people are admitted to the acute mental health units in Hospitals, such as the one I am talking about.

My son Nicky, 21, died as a direct result of being sent off the Waikato Hospital campus, unescorted, while a known suicide risk, to smoke; when there was (and is) a perfectly good safe outside courtyard area that he could have been in.

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Last week, Chelsea Brunton, 19, died in very similar circumstances, after being required to go unescorted outside Palmerston North Hospital’s mental health unit for a smoke.

Smoking is an addiction. While some people may be able to quit it cold turkey, many cannot. My son was one of these – he was attempting, when well, to give it up; when not well, that was the furthest thing from his mind.

The last time I saw my son alive, I made the mistake of getting annoyed with him because he was chain-smoking; I bitterly regret that, because my last words to him were not kind. Had I worried more at that point about how well he was, rather than the fact that he was smoking, my last words to him would have been much more positive!

The reason people are in acute mental health care is because they are experiencing major problems with their thought processes, and are unable to properly care for themselves – Blind Freddy (but apparently not ASH) can see that this would not be the right time or place to enforce an anti-smoking policy.

Now that I am also an elected Waikato DHB member, I invite you to attend the Waikato DHB meeting next Wednesday (24 May) to listen to the discussion that I will be raising.

In case you have not seen it, below is the report of your comments:

Acting on Smoking and Health (Ash) spokesman Boyd Broughton said Macpherson’s proposal would not be in the best interest of the patients.

“There’s research that shows that people with mental health issues, they want to stop smoking just as much as people without mental health issues.

“I would encourage them to investigate other options before implementing change that encourages the continuation of smoking,” Broughton said.

Broughton said decreasing the prevalence of smoking in mental health units has been neglected, even during the 1990 Smoke Free Environment Act.

He said he would like to see more access to nicotine replacement therapy in mental health units before anyone looked at making it easier for patients to smoke.

“There needs to be more support,” Broughton said. “It benefits everyone if they can stop.”

Yours sincerely

Dave Macpherson


Dave Macpherson is TDB’s mental health blogger. He became a Waikato DHB member after his son died from mental health incompetence.


  1. ASH is a good acronym. NZ is still a punitive society originating in its settler colonisation and military theft of Maori land, and its replacement with the patriarchal farming families burning the bush driven by a petty bourgeois greed mentality. We are still living under this rip, shit, bust culture because it serves to discipline us as the peasants and slaves the global capitalism.

  2. “Smoking is an addiction. While some people may be able to quit it cold turkey, many cannot. My son was one of these – he was attempting, when well, to give it up; when not well, that was the furthest thing from his mind.”

    You know what, I have noted this long ago, years ago, that the initially well intended so-called “political correctness”, also referred to as PC, has run mad in New Zealand, same as in many other countries.

    We can combine this with patronising authoritarian attitudes all over, which are often referred to as “nanny state” or as we have it something akin to “big brother state” (the Nat-Act version in NZ).

    Technocrats and bureaucrats tell us day in and out, assisted by a complicit, often PC mad MSM, what we are supposed to do, are not allowed to do, not allowed to say and so forth.

    So saying anything critical about an issue is instantly stamped out or trampled down on, as inadmissible behaviour. We have certain lobby and advocacy groups, who may all have started off with honourable goals to achieve, with a committed drive to improve things. But the way things have developed, it has in many areas shot well ahead of what one would call reasonable.

    Say anything about allowing an addict a safe space to “use” and you instantly get labeled an enabler of inappropriate behaviour. Say anything critical about immigration, you get shouted down as being a “xenophobe” or “racist”. Say anything about the other sex, that may be misunderstood, you are called sexist, say anything else, that may be expressed in words that do not sound PC, and you are labeled, shouted down, silenced immediately.

    That is what we have, a society and state, where everything is controlled into fine detail, where people dare not speak much freely and openly with each other anymore, as they fear they may offend other persons, or be considered somewhat inappropriate, incorrect, old fashioned or whatever.

    We are losing the ability to be humane, we are gradually stamped into moulds by the machinery of government and its facilitators issuing countless laws, regulations and rules, that take away every tiny bit of freedom and space, thus being turned into something more like living robots, who are only allowed to perform certain functions, at pre determined times. We are supposed to be functional little robots or wheel in a machine, that is supposed to run perfectly, without flaws or faults, and mental illness is just a creaking wheel or malfunctioning mechanism in a robot, that is not supposed to be.

    So they feed the affected super drugs, that are supposed to deal to the symptoms and to turn them into functioning beings, and if that does not work, well, there is a very basic, not well working community mental health service, overworked, under resourced, unable to cope, hence the disasters that happen.

    Nobody really likes to talk much about it, and government will pretend it does what is necessary, but only to achieve what was mentioned above.

    Perhaps it is time to return to be human again, just a little bit more humane, to allow some space and air to breathe, so we do not get stressed to the max, which will have the shocking results we hear and read on the news now and again.

    This society is becoming more screwed up every day, I note.

    How are addicts supposed to get well, when all they get as a replacement for their drugs is a cold, mechanic, dumbed down society, that only cares about output, efficiencies, cost reductions, and learn, study, work, save, spend and drop into a box to be put down six feet under at the end?

    Screw it, I need a drink or another fix now.

  3. Here we have a former policeman in the usual desperate desire to expand thier stazi like influence to all political extremes including the political tragics and ridiculous in whatever exteme left the Blog represent. Alowing smoking in asylums in about as sensible as legalising skunk ( 40% stronger weed, pot ) part pills ( beautiful in the big city, mind destoying shit in the provinces through chinese supply to conned gangs and legilimised by dreamer starboy- drug promoter). From ny crusory site of Hillmorton and Princess Margaret the asylum oints have plug in lighters were the addicted destoy their health with plug in mechanical lights 60 a day.
    In terms of the pych issue all the psych drugs are addictive ( despite every kiwi psychaitrist relentless denials and lies in their every court apparance and the drugs they use are also also anti reproductive and are of course washed by piss into the general water stream supply reducing the chance of reproduction by hgih quality people. So gnerally people are wiser to take out therir stress on a botltle or two of red wine or recteational sex. The generally repressive conservative nature of Waikato culture is doubtless the real cause of high mental illness along with pointless low quality jobs. The attempt to largely close down the mental health industruy the incompents shrinks useless prejudiced nurses convicned of their own superiority and rackety should jave ended in the 1980s. But no along came Sue, hard core Mao supporter of every useless cause. The Natioanal caucus should have walked out the day she wAS allowed into parliament ,the same, if their were decent police they should have resigned the day the higher up allowed Bradford on the property and tried to use her/ Robert M

    • What exactly do you mean to say with this comment? Running down Sue Bradford and attacking the health sector, is that what all this is about? At least you acknowledge the contributory factor of Waikato lifestyle and unfulfilling jobs there, that may make people mentally unstable and ill.

  4. ASH isn’t a kiwi organisation. As you can discern from the accents of some of it’s senior staff & ‘spokespeople’ Ash originated in the northern hemisphere. Consequently Ash’s claimed concern about health is merely just avenue used by exploitative blow ins to stick their oars into kiwi culture.

    This NGO is no different to all the other DC NGO lobby groups (Sierra Club, Southern Poverty Law Center et al) who were so concerned at the Sanders supporters advocating a shift away from neoliberalism following the abysmal showing of ClintonCorp in the 2016 election, they pressured Obama to advocate for corporate apologist Perez to take over as chair of the DNC. A democrat party which pushed for an end to neoliberalism would no longer collect fat ‘donations’ from corporations.

    I have no doubt that were Ash to succeed in reducing smoking in Aotearoa to the point where there wasn’t enough revenue from tobacco tax nor enough of an earner from corporate sponsors namely the makers & sellers of nicotine gum, to keep Ash execs in the manner to which they have become accustomed we would witness a hurried change in their policies advocating a more relaxed attitude towards smokers in the hope that smoking would increase and their revenues increase.

    If Ash were really concerned about health outcomes they would cease their opposition to vaping which has been subjected to many studies showing it to be afar far safer than smoking, yet Ash pushed the NZ government to include vaping as a prohibited activity in non smoking areas. It hadn’t previously been included and all information gathered in research has shown vaping doesn’t have any detrimental 3rd party effects.
    Despite it repeatedly being demonstrated as an effective method for those wanting to cease tobacco smoking Ash has forcefully resisted the NZ government’s suggestion vaping be included as a tool. Why?
    Could it be that Ash derives no income from vaping products but does from all the ‘therapies’ eg nicotine gum, which the quit campaign does advocate?

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