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Hospital smoking bans, Public Health England and Stoptober

I'll be on BBC Kent on Monday discussing the decision by yet another hospital to ban smoking throughout its grounds.

It's noticeable that more and more hospitals in England are falling into line with an NHS 'tobacco-free' campaign launched by Public Health England earlier this year.

At the time I described it as a "gross over-reaction" and told the the BBC:

"It won't stop people smoking. It will simply force people to smoke further away, which will discriminate against those who are physically infirm or in a wheelchair.

"The impact on public health will be minimal because smoking in the open air is no threat to anyone else's health.

"The reality is that hospitals can be stressful places for patients, visitors and staff. Instead of campaigning for a tobacco-free environment Public Health England should show some compassion for the many people for whom smoking is a comfort at a difficult time."

Last week however a hospital in Hackney, north London, announced plans to go even further:

Homerton Hospital is planning a total smoking ban on its premises – and in patients’ homes – by the end of the year.

Pending the results of a consultation, the ban would be introduced in phases, with staff no longer able to smoke on site by October – to coincide with the “Stoptober” stop smoking campaign.

And any patients who receive hospital care at home will be asked not to smoke for an hour before staff arrive.

The hospital in Homerton Row has smoking shelters at the moment, but should the ban be approved they’ll all be removed and anyone wishing to smoke will have to do so off-site.

The local paper has the story here. You'll find full details of the 'consultation' here (closing date September 4) but you could be forgiven for thinking that implementation of the policy has already been agreed:

The proposal is to move to a smoke-free environment for staff by October 2017, timed to coincide with Stoptober.

A draft policy is in development and for staff reflects the suggested model for a smoke-free environment at HUHFT. The Trust will be totally smoke-free from January 2018.

Although the 'engagement document' is aimed at staff, "service users" and the local community, Forest will submit something, if only to express our disgust.

I might include some of the 300 words I wrote for the Scottish Sun while I was on holiday:

BANNING smoking on hospital grounds is inhumane and downright nasty. Smoking outside hospital entrances may not look great but why shouldn’t smokers light up in the open air a little further away?

The inconvenience to passers-by is minimal yet the pleasure it offers many smokers is incalculable. People smoke for many reasons.

For some it provides comfort in stressful situations – and what could be more stressful than visiting a sick relative in hospital? Likewise, why should a patient who may be in hospital for several weeks be prohibited from nipping outside for a quick fag?

I recently witnessed a patient, forced to go off-site, smoking in her dressing gown at a bus shelter. Hospital administrators have a duty of care to patients and staff and refusing to allow people to smoke on site could put smokers at risk of injury or worse.

Hospital smoking bans discriminate against patients who are least mobile or independent. They also put at risk the careers of staff who have devoted their lives looking after others, but now face disciplinary action for smoking, or allowing others to smoke, in prohibited areas.

The NHS is in crisis yet administrators see fit to spend their time and our money harassing and sometimes threatening patients, visitors and staff who enjoy a quiet smoke. Common sense and compassion have been replaced by hectoring and petty regulations.

Smokers, who contribute far more in tobacco taxation than it costs to treat smoking-related diseases, are flouting bans in hospital grounds because they are unjust and unenforceable. Politicians must think again and allow smoking areas, or shelters, because the current law is not only unfair, it’s a shocking indictment of our ‘caring’ NHS.

See Smokers to face steep fines if caught lighting up within 15m of Scots NHS hospitals – here are both sides of the argument (Scottish Sun).

I know some of you think responding to consultations is a waste of time, and sometimes you're probably right, but if we sit back and do nothing we can't complain if our arguments are ignored.

It's not as if we never win any battles. Remember the Brighton Council consultation on smoking in parks and beaches in 2015?

Likewise I've heard nothing more about the proposal by Birmingham Children's Hospital to extend an outdoor smoking ban to nearby streets.

It was exactly a year ago (August 2016) when the hospital trust announced plans "to make the streets around it a smoke-free zone - asking people not to light up in nearby roads":

Signs and security patrols would highlight the new zone under the proposals, the trust said.

According to the BBC the plan was subject to a six-week consultation. Not only did Forest condemn the proposal, we submitted a response and encouraged others to do so too (see Action alert – hospital wants to extend smoking ban to nearby streets).

On the closing date I wrote a second post (Why 'smoke-free' consultation should be declared null and void) and released a further statement (along similar lines) to the local media.

To the best of my knowledge the trust has made no further comment about the consultation nor has it implemented its plan to ban smoking in 'nearby streets'.

Frankly I've no idea what the outcome of the consultation was or what the current policy is so this morning I emailed the communications team as follows:

In August 2016 you launched a consultation that included questions concerning a possible 'smoke-free zone' in the streets around the hospital.

Has a report on the consultation been published? If so, I would be grateful if you could send me a copy. If not, can you nevertheless let me know what the outcome of the consultation was?

Can you also confirm (a) what your current policy on smoking outside the hospital is, and (b) whether there there any plans to extend it to nearby streets?

Meanwhile, following up a previous enquiry about Stoptober 2016 that was only partially answered (see Stoptober celebrities feeling the pinch), I've written again to Public Health England:

Further to our correspondence last year re Stoptober 2016 and your response of 18th November 2016 (your ref 03/11/lh/400), I would be grateful if you could provide answers to the following:

1. A full evaluation of the outcome of Stoptober 2016 as mentioned in your response. (According to your response a full evaluation was due to be published in February 2017.)

2. Please confirm final costs (including media costs) for Stoptober 2016.

3. Please confirm the projected costs for Stoptober 2017 including the total media spend.

4. Can you confirm whether you are hiring any celebrities to promote Stoptober 2017, who they are, and what they will be paid (in total) for their work on the Stoptober 2017 campaign?

5. Finally, can you confirm how much you are spending on third party agencies (PR, advertising and marketing) to promote Stoptober 2017, and who they are?

If I get a response to any of these queries I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, tune in to BBC Radio Kent. It may be a Bank Holiday Monday but some of us will be working!

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Reader Comments (6)

As far as I know, hospital managers cannot simply make up laws to suit their own prejudices. Unfortunately there is probably nothing to stop them bullying their own staff.
It is high time the media and politicians stopped supporting this vile ideology.

Friday, August 25, 2017 at 18:30 | Unregistered CommenterTony

It is imperative that the continuing march to persecute smokers be stopped. Smoking bans in all forms are no more than justifications for that persecution. Hospital bas are specially cruel and need to be curtailed and reversed. Stoptober is a waste of money as it is a voice for advocating the persecution of smokers and promoting hateful propaganda.

Friday, August 25, 2017 at 22:57 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus


What is not being said to people is that the smoking ban in England does not cover outside areas, in Scotland 15 metres outside. For the rest of outside in Scotland and immediately outside in England it is not illegal to smoke. In fact if they insist upon banning smoking outside it is they who are being illegal. Therefore any smoker who is bullied or forced to leave he area can legally call the police for assistance.

Sunday, August 27, 2017 at 11:03 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr

The Ashites themselves should be required to enforce what the came up with to justify their existence. Let's see all their faces in real life. And let them deal with the grief stricken relatives who wish to have a cigarette outside A&E/hospital entrances to get themselves together for what they have to sort next.

Monday, August 28, 2017 at 21:30 | Unregistered Commenterbeobrigitte

I wondered how long it would take for the alleged voluntary stoptober campaign to become enforced.

I also wonder how long it will take for smokerphobic hospital managers to demand the one hour quitting enforcement before a visit becomes 2, one week, one month ( probably to coincide with a future stoptober,) and then for good after threatening patients, some of whom have paid a lifetime of tax on the product, plus NI without yet getting a penny back in alleged smoker related illness, that they will no longer be afforded the same health rights as others when they get ill and will be left to die or suffer pain unless they do as ordered and quit perhaps the one pleasure they enjoy.

No wonder some smokers either buy abroad or from the black market. After all, why pay tax on the product in the uk and not get the health service, or access to outdoor hospital grounds, that they were told their tax funds. We should not have to pay for the sole purpose of funding jobs like Arnott's when we despise bullies and refuse to be intimidated.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 at 16:47 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I work as a receptionist at my local hospital and I am in close proximity to main doors. We have smoking shelters for patients and visitors at the moment and directions to these shelters and profited smoking signs at the entrance doors. However I am constantly asking people to move away from the doors and use the shelters provided for them. I have had numerous complains from the general public smelling smoke up in the wards from open windows as smokers congregate below. I am not apposed to people smoking that is their choice,but if they have no consideration for other patients in wards and myself inhaling secondary smoke, what is the answer to this problem. Maybe you can supply the solution to this predicament

Friday, October 20, 2017 at 18:19 | Unregistered CommenterJ Jordan

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