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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Smoke ban call outside hospitals
Smokers outside hospital
Smokers are not supposed to light up in Wrexham Maelor grounds
Smoking should be banned from the grounds of hospitals in Wales as well as inside their buildings, doctors say.

The British Medical Association wants outdoor areas at hospitals included in the legislation coming in next year.

The BMA said it could be inconvenient for "hardened smokers," but it would help them give up. However, some patients and visitors were sceptical.

The assembly government, which is consulting on details of the overall ban, said it would consider the idea.

The ban on smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places is set to become law next summer, and in the meantime the assembly government is looking at areas such as exemptions and possible inclusions.

BMA Wales secretary Dr Richard Lewis said the assembly government had already made "great strides" but it must not "lose this opportunity" to make hospital grounds smoke-free.

Derek Mort
I'm here waiting for my father to die, and I need a cigarette
Derek Mort

"We accept that for many hardened smokers, including patients and staff, this policy will cause an inconvenience," he said.

"However, hospitals are places where people go to be cured of illnesses - not to increase their chances of getting another one.

"The overwhelming majority of smokers say they want to give up. This would help smokers in their quest.

"This policy is not intended to punish smokers which is why it would need to be accompanied by additional smoking cessation measures to help patients stop."

But Maureen Dobbins, an advanced nurse practitioner at Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust, said a blanket-ban policy had to be balanced against quality-of-life issues for some patients.

She said: "If we had somebody in the last days of their days of their life and they were a smoker, I wouldn't like to think that we could tell someone nearing death that they couldn't have a cigarette."

No smoking sign
NE Wales NHS Trust banned smoking outdoors in June

North-East Wales NHS Trust has already brought in the policy the BMA is advocating - but that has not deterred smokers from lighting outside Wrexham Maelor Hospital, despite signs which warn them not to.

Visitor Derek Mort from Mold told BBC News: "I didn't even know we weren't supposed to smoke here outside.

"I'm here waiting for my father to die, and I need a cigarette. They used to have smoking rooms inside, but not anymore. Where else are we supposed to smoke?"

Patient Susan Rowlands from Wrexham added: "I'm waiting here to be discharged and I'm having a cigarette - I'm not doing anyone any harm."

According to Andrew Scotson, corporate support manager for the hospital trust, even when smoking had been limited to outdoors, smoke had still drifted in through open doors and windows.

He said: "We therefore decided that the only effective way to protect our staff and patients is to end smoking on our sites.

"Although we have not yet achieved total compliance, the number of people smoking on the site has been significantly reduced and we will continue to remind smokers of our policy and ask them to respect this whilst they are on our premises."

Michael Summers, a trustee of the Patients Association, was sceptical as to whether such a ban could be enforced.

He said: "There's a fine line between saying not to smoke in buildings because it's bad for one's health and saying you can't smoke in the open air."

An assembly government spokesman said all responses would be carefully considered, and health trusts already had the power to ban smoking on their grounds.


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