Comment: Smoke-free hospital grounds? No one believes it

Smokers gather outside the ERI
Smokers gather outside the ERI
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More than a decade after Scotland’s smoking ban came into force, the issue continues to inflame passions.

It is true that in most situations we quickly got used to the new status quo - no lighting up indoors, on public transport, and so on. The health benefits it has brought are inarguable.

Where it continues to provoke debate is in the areas where the habit continues to be tolerated. Smokers tend to dig their heels in, insisting on their right to light up in the outdoors or their own car or home. Some non-smokers and health campaigners argue equally passionately for ever tougher restrictions.

What is clear is that in hospital grounds across the Lothians the status quo is not working - for anyone.

Now that smoking shelters have been ripped out, smokers simply gather outdoors, often near hospital windows and doors. It not only looks bad, but in some cases leaves patients with the unpleasant prospect of walking through their smoke to get to where they need to be.

While all this goes on, the NHS proudly boasts that its hospital grounds are “smoke free”. That is simply untrue. And the pretence has done nothing except delay a more effective solution from being put into action.