‘I’ll find a way’ says smoker as ban starts

The new smoke free signs at Craigavon Area Hospital. INPT10-026
The new smoke free signs at Craigavon Area Hospital. INPT10-026

Wednesday was national ‘No Smoking Day’ – and for Craigavon Area Hospital, it marked the start of the policy - “No More Smoking ever again, in our buildings or grounds” - in line with a diktat from the health authorities for NI hospitals.

But a Portadown Times vox pop prior to its introduction indicated the policy has failed to draw the majority support of staff, visitors and patients at Craigavon. We interviewed staff and patients and they especially wanted their names kept out. So no names are used.

A staff member (a smoker) said that he would find a way to circumvent the ban, “be it in a quiet corner or walking two or three hundred yards to the nearest public road”. He was one of 10 staffers we spoke to who opposed the blanket ban.

One woman staff member (also a smoker) said that many doctors smoked, “and it will be impossible to police for I can’t imagine that staff, visitors or patients will do it. These are massive grounds and it simply won’t work”.

Visitors were divided. One said, “It’s right and proper that health organisation should ban what has proven to be such a danger to health, causing cancers and chest and heart conditions. Smokers must act responsibly and give up the habit, following this positive lead.”

But another visitor – a non-smoker – insisted, “It won’t work. The hospital’s smoking station (dismantled over the weekend) was in an unsuitable place in front of the main entrance, with no real facilities for disposing butts, and they lay around in hundreds. It gave a totally wrong image.

“The hospital should provide an out-of-the-way, well ventilated area, and also embark on a serious campaign to persuade people to stop smoking.”

An angry patient simply said, “Leave us alone to have a smoke – it helps relieve the stress of being ill in hospital.”

Another patient – having a series of scans – said, “I know I shouldn’t smoke, and I have cut down. But a cigarette certainly relieves the stress. I’m out having a smoke between scans, and I do feel guilty, but a complete ban will make things very difficult.”

A husband and wife, whose young son had been admitted overnight, said they found a smoking break very comforting. “We’re very worried about him, and this really helps the stress,” said the young father.

Public Health Agency (PHA) chief executive Dr Eddie Rooney said, “Stopping smoking is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your health. Creating smoke free health and social care environments and providing tailored support for people who want to quit their habit will help in our ambition to protect public health.

“We hope that this move across the health service will act as a turning point for many people, including patients, visitors and staff, who will see it as an opportunity to quit their smoking habit.”

The Southern Trust has said that trust staff will monitor smoking on the site.