A quick reminder that today is the closing date for submissions to Birmingham Children's Hospital's 'smoke-free' consultation.
It was hard to complete the online form without getting increasingly annoyed.
For example, in response to Section Two ('Please comment on any changes to the boundary you would like to see') I wrote:
This question demonstrates the basic inbuilt bias of this consultation because it doesn't allow for the fact that we do not support ANY no smoking zone outside the hospital, regardless of size. Likewise the questions in Sections Three and Four assume that a no smoking zone will be introduced regardless of the outcome of the consultation. For that reason we believe this consultation should be declared null and void.
Subsequently respondents are asked, 'Do you have any other comments about how we can create a smoke-free experience around our hospital for our patients and families?', to which I replied:
It is no business of the hospital trust to "create a smoke-free (sic) experience" outside the hospital grounds. Unless we are mistaken, the hospital trust doesn't own the local roads. What on earth are you doing telling people whether or not they can smoke when they're not even on the grounds?
And why are you proposing to use public funds (that could be better spent on other things) to put up signage and monitor the area in order to enforce this spiteful, uncaring proposal? Where is the empathy for patients, staff or visitors for whom a cigarette can offer comfort in what can be a highly stressful environment?
The trust is looking for a problem that doesn't exist. Smoking in the open air doesn't harm anyone other, perhaps, than the smoker, while the idea that children must be protected from the sight of someone smoking is Orwellian.
We understand why the trust doesn't want people smoking around the main entrance to the building but extending the ban to nearby streets is unjustified and extremely petty. Imagine if you're a smoker and you're the worried parent of a sick child in hospital. Why should you be admonished or made to feel like a leper if you choose to relieve some of the stress by lighting up in a nearby street? What harm are you doing to anyone?
As for the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the consultation, why would any health professional consider prohibiting the use of a product used by many people to quit smoking? All it demonstrates is that these proposals aren't about health at all. It seems the trust wants to dictate how adults behave even when patients, staff and visitors are not on hospital property. Do you have any idea what message this sends out about your priorities and your attitude to normal, decent people?
Finally I emphasised my general disgust by adding:
This is an extremely ill-conceived, ill-thought out consultation that is designed to generate only one result – the imposition of a no smoking zone outside hospital grounds. It is our view that this consultation is not fit for purpose and should be declared null and void.
After I submitted my comments I received a standard reply:
Thank you for taking part in the survey. The information will be used to help us understand whether to introduce a zone and if so, what it should look like.
Let me guess ...
Update: Some of the comments on the Forest Facebook page include:
"What a stupid idea and near a major road anyway."
"Right near a major road and the concern is about a bit of smoke? You couldn't make this up."
"They would be better off putting their efforts into sorting out the lack of parking for stressed out and worried parents."
This was my favourite however:
"Where should the signage be put up? I had to put 'inside the hospital' as there was no option for 'up your arse."
Last but not least Rob Lyons, campaigns manager for Forest's sister campaign Action on Consumer Choice, commented:
"As a born-and-bred Brummie who used to work close to Birmingham Children's Hospital I think this is a stupid and illiberal idea, designed by anti-smoking obsessives to colonise our streets.
"If air pollution is really such a problem perhaps the authorities should consider moving the hospital away from heavy traffic on the Queensway and the Aston Expressway.
"In reality this is a fabricated problem designed to demonise smokers even more than they already are."
If you haven't submitted a response you've got a few more hours (assuming the consultation closes at midnight).