Gina Davidson: Hospital smoke is bad medicine

Staff light up in the Royal Infirmary's no-smoking area. Picture: Neil Hanna
Staff light up in the Royal Infirmary's no-smoking area. Picture: Neil Hanna
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SMOKING kills. You’d have to be seriously, seriously stupid not to know this. Countless studies, scientific research and court cases have proved that inhaling nicotine into your lungs on a regular basis messes you up.

It blocks arteries, causes strokes and heart attacks, clogs lungs, turns healthy cells cancerous and kicks off chronic breathing conditions. It makes your hands and teeth an unappealing shade of yellow and stinks up your clothes and hair. It ages your skin.

It is not – just in case the huge letters on the fag packets spelling it out are not clear enough – good for you.

Yet people still smoke. It’s a personal choice, one that’s obviously worth being forced into the cold outside the pub to keep lighting up, one that’s worth all the physical ailments it brings, one that’s worth the embarrassment of asking the shopkeeper for something behind the “covered shelves”, one that’s worth ignoring all the government campaigns and the programmes available to quit.

It also must be worth the money. Smoking is so expensive a packet of 20 is now far in excess of the old prescription charge for a ventolin 
inhaler.

And it seems smoking is also worth looking incredibly stupid. Is there anything which spells out a severe shortage of grey matter more obviously than lighting up outside a hospital? The place where you go to get well, to be made better, to heal. The place where there are huge No Smoking signs plastered over the exterior walls.

Well, maybe there is one thing. Smoking when pregnant, in maternity pyjamas and hooked up to a drip outside the delivery wards. I’ve witnessed that myself and felt outraged by the lack of care the person is showing themselves and their child. It makes me want to call social services if not the midwife.

Not that there would be much point calling security services at the Royal Infirmary. This week this paper showed just how many people there are smoking outside the ERI at Little France. And they are freely able to do so because their “foul-mouthed” abuse to those who tell them to stub out their fags makes staff afraid to raise the issue.

More incredulously, it’s not even just patients – some staff seem to think themselves above the rules of the hospital, too. And for that there really is no excuse. NHS regulations state that staff, especially in uniform, should not smoke anywhere near hospital premises as it “compromises the public health message”. Pretty obvious really, even to the hard of thinking.

Of course, the excuse of needing a nicotine rush to calm nerves if they’re waiting to hear bad news from the doctor will be used by some patients. And the stress of visiting a family member who is severely ill will also be mentioned. But there are designated smoking areas away from entrances and ward windows. Use them.

Personally I can’t wait until the full force of a government no-smoking ban at hospital premises comes into force in 2015. Then the stupidity of those who cannot see the irony of killing themselves while they stand outside a place built to make them better can be dealt with the only way they’ll really understand – by making them pay. Let’s hope fines are linked to the price of a packet of fags.

GOING NOWHERE

A SURVEY claims that Edinburgh people waste 192 hours a year waiting for deliveries, queuing and watching slow computers boot up. Strange no mention of time lost dealing with Festival traffic though.

Just put giant TV on standby

I WAS never a fan of the council’s decision to install a massive TV screen in Festival Square, given the costs involved, but it has been a focal point for some wonderful sporting occasions in the last year or so, thanks to the Olympics and Wimbledon.

While I think it’s right the council reviews its decision, I can’t help feeling that maybe it should delay pulling the plug on the widest of widescreens for at least another 12 months.

After all, next year will see the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and there will be plenty Edinburgh – and Scottish – talent to cheer on.

Abuse play is an essential watch

THERE’S a really important play on at the Fringe this year, which chimes well with the current police spotlight in Edinburgh on domestic violence.

Our Glass House, performed in a Wester Hailes house, tells six different stories of how women suffer abuse and allows the audience to witness violence, normally hidden, at first hand.

It’s a production which will shock. But then domestic violence is a shocking blight on society.

In Edinburgh, police deal with more than 100 incidents of domestic violence every week – more than five times as many as robberies and other serious assaults combined. Yet it’s estimated only a quarter of victims ever report the abuse. Our Glass House should perhaps be made compulsory viewing.

Sticking the boot in again

THIS week saw the opening of the city’s first Dr Martens store, which is stocking some marvellous (air)wares.

I remember my first DMs, a pair of ox-blood red eight hole boots, which back in the olden days were only available at Schuh. They weighed a tonne but were the footwear of choice for left-wing students. And as fashion is political it’s no surprise that this recession means that DMs are back.