Helena Connelly: Hospital smoking ban crucial

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All grounds throughout NHS Lothian became smoke-free on April 1. From then, patients, 
 visitors and staff have been asked to wait until they are off NHS grounds before lighting up. This ambitious move to achieve smoke-free status in the grounds of every hospital, health centre and NHS building across the country is part of a national drive to create a tobacco-free generation by 2034.

And so far it seems to be working. Since its introduction, we have noticed a marked improvement at our hospitals and while there are some who choose to ignore our policy, we’d like to thank the vast majority of smokers who have respected our policy.

However, we know it will remain a challenge to make smoke-free grounds part of everyday hospital life. We recognise how much effort is required from those who smoke to refrain from lighting up on our grounds when perhaps they are going through a particularly stressful or sad time. Smoking, after all, is an addiction. The aim of this policy is not to stigmatise smokers, it’s to protect the health of our staff and patients. The health risks associated with breathing in second-hand smoke are well known and as a health organisation, which sees 9000 smoking-related hospital admissions every year, it is right that we take steps to remove smoking from our grounds and premises.

NHS Lothian has made more support available to patients and staff in our hospitals to help them comply with the smoke-free policy and some are using the rule change as an opportunity to stop smoking completely. Our team of specially-trained staff can provide practical advice on ways to give up smoking that is tailored to individual needs. We know that by getting support and using a suitable medication, you are four times more likely to quit compared to doing it on your own.

NHS Lothian has a duty of care to protect the health of, and promote health behaviours amongst, people who use or work in our services. This is why the time for smoking on hospital grounds has drawn to a close.

Helena Connelly is NHS Lothian Smoking Cessation Co-ordinator