Page last updated at 05:49 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 06:49 UK

'Ban smoking in hospital grounds'

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People outside Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbigjshire give their views on the proposals

The British Medical Association is calling for smoking to be banned from all hospital grounds in Wales.

On the second anniversary of the ban on smoking in public places in Wales, it wants the assembly government to ensure hospitals are completely smoke free.

Currently, some Welsh NHS Trusts operate voluntary codes, which are not enforceable by any laws or fines.

The assembly government said it does not intend to extend smoke-free legislation to hospital grounds.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA's Welsh Council, said smoke was putting people's health at risk in the very place they visit to get better.

"The BMA in Wales has campaigned for smoking to be banned on all hospital grounds. In fact, we called on the assembly government to change the law to ensure hospitals were included in the smoking ban legislation, which came into effect two years ago today," he said.

"This wasn't done, and now, more than ever, it seems absurd to have smoking outlawed in places such as pubs and restaurants.

"But in hospital grounds, where people go to be cured of illnesses, it isn't.

"The very reason people visit hospitals is to increase their chances of getting better, not to potentially have their health threatened, by having to fight their way through clouds of cigarette smoke."

The BMA's proposals come weeks after it was revealed that security guards at North Wales NHS Trust hospitals face daily abuse when they ask smokers to leave the site.

The trust estimated that 3,000 incidents of verbal abuse happened at its hospitals every year.

Smoking on hospital grounds is against the trust policy, but it is not against the law.

The BMA in Wales said it believed if it was actually made against the law to light up around hospitals, much of this abuse could be stamped out.

Help to quit

But Simon Clark, the director of Forest, the lobbying group that opposes smoking bans, accused the BMA of "trying to create a utopian society that doesn't exist".

"I can understand why they don't want to encourage people to smoke but they have to live in the real world. A quarter of the adult population smoke and hospitals can be very stressful places for patients, staff and visiting relatives," he said.

"The BMA are supposed to represent a caring profession but there's nothing fair about forcing people off hospital grounds to stand in the road in the wind and rain."

Anti smoking charity Ash said it supported the BMA's proposals but said it believes it is equally important that hospital staff, patients and visitors to be given more help to stop smoking.

"It is vital to ensure that staff, patients and visitors to NHS sites have easy access to smoking cessation advice, appropriate and ready access to nicotine replacement therapy and that staff are trained to provide all patients and visitors with support to help them to quit or be temporarily abstinent," a spokesman said.

"Currently, health professionals across Wales are unable to readily access smoking cessation training."

'Public support high'

The Welsh Assembly Government said hospitals were free to introduce their own policies on the issue but they would not be introducing new legislation.

"The smoke-free legislation relates to enclosed public places. There currently are no plans to extend the smoke-free premises regulations to cover hospital grounds," a spokeswoman said.

"It is open to NHS Trusts to restrict smoking in hospital grounds in line with their own internally-agreed policies and several NHS Trusts have done so already."

The assembly government said since it was introduced, public support for the smoke-free legislation has been very high among smokers and non-smokers, with 80% of the public in Wales supporting the ban.

Support among smokers in particular has increased significantly from 51% before the ban, to 62%, according to the latest Welsh Omnibus Survey.



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