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Why smoking should not be banned on hospital grounds

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently issued guidelines about banning smoking across hospital grounds.

Last week the North West Evening Mail in Cumbria asked me to comment in 350 words. Here's my response, published in a feature called The Big Debate:

Excessive regulation has already forced the closure of all indoor smoking rooms. Further restrictions would send quite the wrong message about our ‘caring’ NHS.

There’s nothing caring about ordering people to walk several hundred yards before they can light up off campus. It could be dark, late at night, or raining. It will almost certainly be next to a busy main road. Why do that to anyone unnecessarily?

I don’t subscribe to the idea that non-smokers are at risk from people smoking outside. You may not like the smell but your level of exposure can be counted in seconds and any smoke is massively diluted in the open air.

I agree it may not look good if people are smoking outside the main entrance but this is one of many unintended consequences of the existing smoking ban. Unable to light up indoors in a separate, well-ventilated smoking room, smokers have to stand outside. Inevitably they choose to stand by entrances and doors where there may be some shelter from the elements.

The answer to this problem is not more restrictions, forcing smokers further away with threats of fines and other penalties. The solution is a well signposted smoking shelter where patients, visitors and staff can light up in some degree of comfort.

If people object to the cost, consider this. Treating smoking-related diseases is estimated to cost the NHS £2.7 billion a year. In contrast smokers contribute over £10 billion annually through tobacco taxation.

Even in these difficult financial times a smoking shelter represents money well spent. After all, what’s the alternative? Enforcing an outdoor smoking ban means CCTV cameras, public address systems and tobacco control wardens ordering smokers to “Put that cigarette out!”.

Behind this policy is a degree of bullying that is unacceptable in a tolerant society. People are no longer educated about the health risks of smoking. Today they are patronised, insulted, and made to feel like lepers.

The public health industry is engaged in a campaign of creeping prohibition. Banning smoking in the open air, even on hospital grounds, is a step too far.

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Reader Comments (6)

Can they enforce such a ban? Could I actually prevent, for example, leaflet deliverers, smoking as they walked on my property? How would I go about it?

Friday, April 19, 2013 at 12:20 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

Good response Simon, well measured and coherent.

‘There’s nothing caring about ordering people to walk several hundred yards before they can light up off campus. It could be dark, late at night, or raining. It will almost certainly be next to a busy main road. Why do that to anyone unnecessarily?’


Just one thing though…Remember nursing assistant Cheryl Moss?

Next time rub their nasty rotten little noses in this

I don't know if this link works properly, you might have to google her name. However I managed to use her name which the Daily Mail or Guardian didn't. Nor did they show a photo of her - but the Telegraph did. Why do you think that is. If the Telegraph can do a proper reporting job - then these two papers could have done the same.

Incidentally this happened back in 2006, before the smoking ban came in.

Friday, April 19, 2013 at 14:33 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

Bans of this nature are problematic. They don't own the air.

Friday, April 19, 2013 at 14:58 | Unregistered CommenterFrank J

Copy and paste this one into your browser. Should work.

Friday, April 19, 2013 at 15:53 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

On what grounds would a ban on outside ground's of hospital's be made, as it can not be health, just as the HSE could not have brought in the smoking ban indoors in the UK, due to there being no significant epidemiological evidence to support a smoking ban, the government circumvented this inconvenience, by putting the smoking ban in chapter 28 of the Health act 2006, after signing the unconstitutional WHO FCTC without correct consultation, are they now going to pull Repace and Glantz out again to study fresh air singling out any nano particles, Repace associates is there to take the money and am sure Glantz would be there to prove the impossible. There are also a lot of disabled people in Hospital who can barely make it to outside the hospital, never mind outside the grounds, disgusting behaviour by people who have a health social engineering programme to justify the control of others, creating an apartheid of smokers. Drinkers of alcohol are now also under the same health persecution.

Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 0:49 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Burrows

Or these. US and Canada, but principle still applies - vulnerable people should be in hospital not outside.

Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 1:59 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

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