Niagara, Ontario: It's been just over six months since Niagara Health System (NHS) hospital properties became smoke-free zones, including all buildings, lawns, gardens, parking lots and parked cars.
"Compliance with our smoke-free policy is excellent among our staff, but with the cold weather, we are finding visitors to our hospitals are smoking close to the building entrances and in their vehicles," said NHS Vice President Clinical Services Linda Boich. "The reason we went smoke-free was to provide a safe and healthy environment at our seven sites, and we need the public to be aware that our hospital properties are smoke-free zones, for everyone's benefit."
Smoke-free NHS properties began on May 31, 2007. For many years, smoking has been banned within nine metres of any hospital entrance and with the Smoke Free Ontario Act, smoking is also banned under any ambulance canopy. The fine for smoking under an ambulance/entrance canopy, within nine metres (29 feet) of any hospital entrance or inside a hospital building is a hefty $300, enforced by Niagara Public Health Tobacco Enforcement Officers.
"Going smoke-free sends a clear message to our community that prevention is as important as treatment of illness," Boich said. "We are among several Ontario hospitals that have taken this step, which goes above and beyond the Smoke Free Ontario Act."
"We ask those who go off hospital property to smoke to make sure adjacent boulevards and sidewalks remain litter-free," Boich said. "Unsightly cigarette ends and litter are pollution. It takes 12 years for a filter tip to decompose, so we ask that extinguished cigarettes be deposited in a tin or safely in a garbage can."
The smoke-free policy also extends to vehicles parked on hospital property. "Smoking in parked vehicles is not allowed on hospital property because the smell of smoke remains on clothes, hair, hands and breath, and there are patients in our hospitals who are highly sensitive to smells or scents," Boich said.