Calls to bring back hospital smoking areas in the Capital

Visitors want designated smoking areas back to deter smoking at doorways. Picture; Toby Williams
Visitors want designated smoking areas back to deter smoking at doorways. Picture; Toby Williams
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FUMING hospital visitors have called for smoking shelters to be brought back – as a healthy option.

The Evening News reported yesterday on concerns the Royal Infirmary is “looking like an ashtray” as smokers routinely ignore a ban on lighting up in hospital grounds.

Now non-smokers say they want to see the return of designated areas to deter lighting up at doorways and second-hand smoking. But the idea looks like a non-starter, as health bosses said any such smoking areas would break national guidelines.

“As a health organisation, it’s right for us to remove smoking from our sites,” said NHS Lothian’s Prof Alison McCallum. “The Scottish Government is in the process of developing more policy with regards to smoking on hospital grounds and we look forward to the introduction of these new regulations.”

Prof McCallum said smoking shelters were removed from all Lothian health sites in April 2015 with plenty of advance warning.

But readers were undeterred, with some seeing smoking areas as a sensible measure.

Alan Inverarity wrote on Facebook: “Here’s a simple solution. Provide a space for smokers, it could be a shelter or even a room.

“Smoking is not illegal and to ban it in an area the size of the Edinburgh Infirmary and its grounds is unfair on people who smoke.”

Claire Dow pitched in: “Disgusting having to walk through a haze of smoke in the entrance tunnel from the car parking area, especially with babies and young children.”

NHS Lothian proudly declared hospital grounds “smoke free” more than two years ago after the Scottish government introduced a blanket ban on lighting up outside 
hospitals.

But smokers hanging around outside the Little France buildings and at other sites including the Astley Ainslie remain an everyday sight.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of anti-smoking campaigners ASH Scotland, said: “The planned 15-metre perimeter by law around NHS buildings aims to cut smoke drift into NHS wards and public areas.

“I hope people will understand why that’s important. Second-hand smoke is a health hazard and getting this understanding across may be the key to preventing people from lighting up in hospital entrances and near windows and vents.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman confirmed all hospitals are smoke-free to create “the right environment to promote good health, wellbeing and recovery”.

She added: “It’s currently an offence to smoke within enclosed public spaces. The Scottish Government plans to extend this enforceable ban to include a 15-metre perimeter around hospital buildings.

“Second-hand-smoke has a detrimental impact on others and can hamper the recovery of those who choose not to smoke.

“Stopping smoking is one of the most important steps individuals can take to improve their health. We request people wait until they are outside the hospital grounds before lighting up.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com