Smoking cigarettes, in public areas, tends to be frowned upon these days. In fact, smoking anywhere is no longer fashionable and, with its recognized health implications nowadays, is usually positively discouraged. With a ban on smoking in public areas already law in the UK smoekers are gradually being ostracised.
However, does this mean that even designated smoking areas, at places such as Hospitals, are wrong and should be removed?
In Western countries smoking is not illegal, and retailers and wholesalers alike make nice profits from the sale of cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia. The manufacturing industry also relies heavily on smoking and smokers, to employ workers in the production and distribution of all things smoking.
In the UK the government greedily grabs the tax that is levied on cigarettes, and the like, each year and then cheekily increases this tax constantly. With all of this in mind it would seem that many people want to have their cake and eat it.
Some parts of industry need and want people to smoke but do not want them to have anywhere suitable to do this. It is a bit like when there are proposals for a power plant that every citizen wants to reap the benefits from, but no-one wants siting in their own back yard.
Smoking is different though and I, for one, am not postively encouraging this nasty habit.
Of course with hospitals smoking becomes a whole different ball game. With medical professionals around the world stressing the need for people to stop smoking surely a designated smoking area here would be inappropriate? Well this may not be as simple an argument as you might think at first glance. Take a look at current practices in the UK.
A ban on smoking in public areas, in general, came into force in England, in the UK, on 1st July 2007. This meant that having designated smoking areas, and smoking in general, was no longer allowed in shops, restaurants, bars, offices, hospitals and any such other areas. On the surface this seems sensible, especially in the case of hospitals but is it?
Our large, city hospital, which usually has more than six hundred inpatients at any given time, is a prime example. Situated near to the city centre this hospital is in an area where drugs and crime are current problems. Bear in mind also that, it is within a short walk off the city's red light district. Patients who are still mobile and feel in need of a cigarette walk to the main road outside of this hospital, for what they feel are their essential breaths of nicotine.
No matter what your stance is on smoking this must leave you feeling uncomfortable.
Patients with drips attached are seen like a plague of zombies regularly making this trip, which is fraught with so much danger. In flimsy nightwear they, and their drip stands and other equipment, huddle in the bus shelter to get a daily fix of their cigarette. This happens whether it is summer or winter, dark or light and wet or dry. If these patients were addicted to hard drugs no doubt their addiction would attract more help and sympathy from the hospital.
Many staff, although they know that smoking is bad for patient's health in general, are not happy that patients do this. You may think that patients should be stopped from this practice but this is hard to enforce. Sure, inpatients can be made to sign disclaimers, so that the responsibility for their actions lies squarely on their own heads, but is this course of action really appropriate?
Life-time smokers, faced with the extra stress of ill health, surgical procedures and maybe financial worries, usually need their crutch, a cigarette, to lean on. Having given up smoking myself over 20 years ago, I know all too well, just how hard it can be to stop smoking. Perhaps when someone is facing a major trauma in their life, it is not the right time. Patients need to be able to stay calm and for many this means partaking in their usual relaxation habit, namely smoking cigarettes.
Hospitals do offer some patients nicotine patches, and the like, but again I say perhaps when someone is illit is not the right time. It takes a lot of willpower to stop smoking and surely that strength would be better spent fighting their illness.
Apart from the patients, Hospital Staff and visitors often feel a need, or a want, to have a cigarette. Staff know the risks but if they are smokers they still smoke. Instead of having to shuffle out of the hospital, to hide away, like schoolchildren in the playground, perhaps a designated smoking area would make more sense. Staff would be on hand if urgently needed and smoking could be restricted to break times. As it is now people disappear for a few minutes on and off all day.
Visitors who are smokers may need to use a smoking area for lots of reasons. If they have a very sick relative they may be sleeping at the hospital, keeping a vigil, for example. Is it really fair to expect such stressed out people to either stand in the middle of nowhere, to have a cigarette, or simply go without?
I for one, do not think so.
Smoking is a killer, and we all know that. Some people choose to gamble that it will not catch them out and that is their choice. I do not think that if a hospital has a smoking area it is condoning smoking. The area could be plastered with warning posters and anti smoking literature much like the health warnings on the packs of cigarettes. I also feel that the hospital would then be partially fulfilling its duty of care to all concerned.
There would be no risk of passive smoking if the designated area was well placed. What England's hospitals have done, since 1st July 2007, is try to operate a blanket ban on smoking at all of their sites but then each Hospital Trust has turned a blind eye to the shenanigans I have detailed above.
One nurse was stabbed to death, in another city, not long after the smoking ban in 2007, as she sloped away for a crafty cigarette. It is only a matter of time before a member of staff, visitor or more worryingly a patient suffers something similar.
Is allowing a "smoking hut" really so bad, when you consider the alternative of what could happen without a designated smoking area?