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Hospital Sends Mixed Smoke Signals

By By Smokey the Bear on September 5, 2012 in News

Photo: Richard Branson

Tobacco smoking is the single greatest cause of premature death and leading preventable cause of morbidity in NSW. There’s a tobacco-related death every 28 minutes in Australia.

And smokers aren’t just harming themselves. Non-smokers who share footpaths, entrances, lifts and other common areas are at risk of breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke from cigarettes and exhaled smoke.

The Cancer Council states that children exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of SIDS, acute respiratory infections, ear problems and more severe asthma. Adults are at increased risk of lung cancer, coronary heart disease and immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system.

Now, here’s my beef. Over the course of my pregnancy and subsequent post-natal visits at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital and Royal Hospital for Women, I have had to dodge many smokers who park themselves on the footpath and entrances to the hospital. This is despite the fact that the hospital has extensive signage stating the hospital grounds are non-smoking (ironically, most of the smokers have to sit beneath a non-smoking sign to light up).

A couple of months ago I had a hospital appointment and the rain was bucketing down. Upon entering the hospital grounds I counted six people smoking at the front of the hospital. I had to make a decision to either keep my baby and myself dry by walking on the covered footpath, breathing in the smokers’ tobacco fumes in the process, or to take a wide berth around the smokers and become saturated. Quite simply, that’s a decision I shouldn’t have had to make.

I marched to the reception area to complain. The Prince of Wales Hospital’s receptionist told me they knew about the smokers but security wouldn’t come down anymore because there is nothing they can do about it. I moved on to the Royal Hospital for Women’s receptionist and, after she argued about where the smokers were, she also said she would “speak to a manager but there’s nothing they can do”.

A call to the State MP for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith’s office was met with support and a commitment to take action. However, after they spoke with the Director of Operations for the Prince of Wales Hospital, Andrew Bernard, they concluded that while everything was in place to dissuade smokers, there were no immediate solutions. Mr Bernard said he had a “duty of care to patients who were smoking and couldn’t ask them to move”.

To Notley-Smith’s credit, he contacted the State Minister for Health Jillian Skinner’s office, which replied by saying that “while the Smoke Free Environment policy prohibits smoking on hospital grounds, there is no legally enforceable option available to sanction those who decide to smoke”.

Skinner mentioned that her recently proposed Tobacco Legislation Amendment Bill (introduced to State Parliament on May 31) will give Local Health Districts scope to allow for enforceable fines to be issued to persons who are smoking in outdoor areas. So the security staff will fine people. And for the objectors, the police may become involved. But can’t the smokers exercise some common decency so our tax dollars are spent rewarding hard-working doctors and nurses, not chasing recalcitrant smokers?

In the meantime, perhaps the hospitals could direct smokers away from entrances to ensure safe passage for visitors without the fear of breathing in tobacco smoke. Minister Skinner said this was not in the “spirit” of the Health Service’s Smoke Free Environment policy.

Hopefully the Tobacco Legislation Amendment Bill will be passed quickly, so we can all breathe easy.


  1. not only to nicotine addicts take their highly addictive narcotic drug
    [same, category in poisons lists as is heroin] outside the front doors
    of prince of whales hospital, but there is an area of the internal
    coffee shop outside the serving area but within the hospital itself,
    where last visit i saw four people sitting smoking tobacco
    [presumably tobacco, it could be repacked cannabis ‘cigarettes’]..
    regardless, they were releasing toxic tobacco smoke into the area
    and thus into the hospital airspace, which is unavoidable when
    released within any airspace joined by doors and other spaces..

    today, any nicotine addict may purchase cheap nicotine without prescription
    of various ingestion methods, tabs, mini-tabs, capsules, skin patches
    or suppositories, thus taking as much nicotine as they like, anywhere,
    at any time, without forcing others to breath tobacco smoke pollution..

    tobacco smoke pollution today has been banned worldwide from many
    public areas for years.. including beaches, open air sports stadiums,
    outdoor recreation and play areas, streets where footpath eating
    and coffee are popular [etc]..
    this has not, been implemented universally due to identified factors
    such as tobacco corruption, addict decisionmakers, and plain incompetence..

    nicotine including within tobacco smoke pollution, crosses the placenta..
    even in tiny amounts, this introduces the developing brain to this
    highly addictive narcotic drug.. a reality and utter disgrace,
    which normal rational citizens should not tolerate..

    this is but the tip of the iceburg of this narcotic drug menace
    which costs society unbelievable amounts of money in treating
    tobacco caused diseases alone..

    the fact that the drug is readily available now without prescription
    erases the last arguments in favour of allowing tobacco smoke
    to be deliberately released into public airspaces, including,
    prince of wales hospital and similar public places..

    c. vagg

    Posted by: carl vagg | October 1, 2013, 3:44 PM |

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  2. As part of the Prince of Wales staff I have also complained and been given similar answers to the collective nuisance that are the smokers who congregate at both entries to the prince of Wales Hosptial ( High street, Barker street)
    As a busy member of staff I often want to leave the confines of my workplace to get some “fresh air” and a bit of sunshine. On every occasion to avoid the smokers who take up prime positions both along the walkway, in the round garden area and the grass raised area at the barker street entrance, I am relegated to the fence overlooking the psychiatric ward on the circular drive. I sometimes get lucky and score an old milk grate ( thanks oddly enough to a previous smoker) to sit on while eating lunch or having a coffee. Even then I have not been safe when on one occasion a women came and stood next to me and lit up……away from other smokers. Clearly I was NOT a smoker and I was clearly alone trying to eat my lunch in peace and she didn’t even ask if I minded if she had a smoke……. So annoyed.
    Surely us non smokers have a right too, to used this outside area free of smoke pollution, why should I have to go to the far corner with no seating because the Hosptial has no Balls to make some decent policy about their own signage that’s say this is a NON SMOKING AREA. This is a hospital, promoting health yet it fails it’s staff members and patients that don’t smoke.
    So angry.

    Posted by: Christine | October 8, 2013, 9:30 PM |

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