Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King
Desperate nicotine addicts have been warned they are playing Russian Roulette with their lives on Erdington High Street, by picking up and smoking cigarette butts from the pavement.
The “filthy habit” normally has a tranche of health consequences, but the COVID-19 pandemic could see more deadly results for the so called ‘Nubsters’. And the threat of catching coronavirus is not just confined to those picking cigarettes from the floor but extends to people who share ‘twos’ with their friends.
The warning has come from Erdington nurse, Leonie Smith (37), who has swapped working at her own clinic to be on the front line fighting COVID-19 in a mental health ward.
Leonie said: “I grew up in Erdington and we used to laugh at the old guys who picked up cigarettes from the floor, but now as a nurse it terrifies me the consequences of this filthy habit during this pandemic.
“If I walk down Erdington High Street I can’t go ten yards before seeing someone picking up a fag end from the floor, I thought because of the pandemic people would have the sense to stop.
“Normally it would be the germs and bacteria on the floor which would cause the health scares to these addicts, but now it is also who smoked the fag before which is the danger. It is a sure fire way of catching the virus.
“Every pull on that cigarette is ingesting the previous persons saliva and germs; I still see young people passing one another cigarettes or spliffs of cannabis.”
Government has not released any statistics about how the coronavirus virus has hit drug addicts, but they often have underlying health conditions and low immune systems – a demographic described as ‘vulnerable’ by Public Health England.
“We need to educate everyone in society to follow the rules and drug addicts are no different,” continues Leonie. “Passing on a roll up, cigarette, spliff, or vape has to be seen as a dangerous and stupid thing to do – we all have a part to play, to call out friends, family and those who are blasé and do this like they always have.”
Leonie went to Perry Common School and has lived in Erdington and Kingstanding whilst working in the NHS – including the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.
Before the COVID-19 crisis she had set up her own clinic as an expert in children’s mental health. However, as the call out for support came from Government she immediately volunteered to go back on the front line.
Leonie has now created her own signs, which include the slogan ‘No More Twos’ and ‘Picking up fag butts is like Russian Roulette’ – hoping to help deter the trend of picking up discarded cigarette ends and to further prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Birmingham City Council pinpointed Erdington as one of the busiest high streets outside the city centre and removed on-street parking, as well as widened pavements, to help tackle problems physical distancing.
For further help and guidance on health issues surrounding COVID-19 and the coronavirus crisis, visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus
For help and guidance giving up smoking, visit www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/nhs-stop-smoking-services-help-you-quit/