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Unforeseen Consequences Of Banning Smoking On Hospital Grounds

Smoking has been banned inside the Coombe Hospital grounds

The Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital here in Cork Street, Dublin 8, has brought in a change recently that put a stop to staff, patients, and visitors alike, when it come’s to smoking on hospital grounds. Smoking is a serious addiction and people who smoke do so because they are addicted, not because they want to.

From the 1st November 2013, no one is allowed to smoke anywhere on the hospital grounds which included the two already existing smoke sheds. People who want a smoke now have to stand outside the hospital’s front gates. It seems that the hospital has overlooked some serious consequences of this decision.

Please note: Due to a number of complaints, we have removed the previous main image from the top of the page, and replaced it with something more neutral.

On Monday 18th November 2013, I went around to the Coombe to see how this new rule is working out for people. At first glance it didn’t look too bad, but as the hour progressed It became obvious that the situation could easily become a serious hazard.

The blue line which smokers need to cross to have a cigarette at The Coombe Hospital

The blue line which smokers need to cross!

There is a painted blue line that separates the public street from the hospital, and once the people cross this line, they do so at their own risk. This risk gets greater as more people come out for a cigarette.

First up we have people out blocking the public paths. At one point, I counted up to fifteen people out for a cigarette. Some of these people included individuals in wheelchairs, people on drips, and heavily pregnant women. Surely this ruling increases the risk of serious injuries to already ill patients. Then we have a serious issue with cigarette butts, because wait for it… there are no bins provided!

In order to get shelter people have taken to using the bus stops when smoking. This has implications for Dublin bus. Drivers frequently stop the bus thinking there is a full bus stop of people when in fact they are patients out smoking.

This week it’s been reported in a national news paper that we in Ireland are expected to get very nasty icy weather. It’s believed we are expected to get this nasty weather later on this week. These kinds of elements will be a very dangerous to all smokers who have to leave the safety of the sheds and hospital grounds.

I spoke to a few workers who were out on their break. One of these was a lady called Teresa, who feels smokers are been simply ignored and pushed out of their comfort zone. Another worker Lilly, feels totally exposed to the elements and does not feel safe.

The smoking sheds are closed off at the Coombe Hospital in Dublin 8

The Coombe’s smoking sheds are now closed off.

Patients, some heavily pregnant, were having to stand outside in the cold instead of sitting, and some of them are in pain. One such woman was June Smart, who is in hospital now nearly 12 weeks due to high blood pressure. When June first came to stay in hospital it wasn’t too bad as she was able to have a cigarette in the public smoking shed, which is in the car park of the hospital. She could sit down and relax, however, the shed is now empty and the entrance to it is now sealed off with tape.

Another pregnant lady, who didn’t wish to be named, said… “its ridiculous, everybody has to stand outside the hospital to have a cigarette. When cars are going by, the drivers are beeping at the women, what protection do we have she asked? We are totally left to the mercy of strangers”.

The hospital did give 1 months notice, but some staff still feel that this was an act of unfairness. It wouldn’t have been too bad if they had have done this 8 or so years ago, when the no smoking ban came into effect, instead of waiting this length, and then doing it.

Some of the women are embarrassed to be having to stand outside the hospitals’ main gates. One lady told me, that some women come down for their 1st cigarette as early as 6am. It does be very dark and cold out, women are only wearing slippers, and house coats they are not dressed for these conditions.

Another worker told me the staff who drive have to pay €100.00 a year for their car to be parked in the private car park on the hospital grounds, yet they are not allowed to sit in their car’s and smoke, despite paying the fee for a private car park.

The hospital has set up a Friday clinic (held in the hospital), to try and help the staff to quit smoking, but its not been a great success despite them giving the workers support booklets. One worker who smokes the electric cigarettes is not allowed to smoke them on the hospital grounds, despite this cigarette not even being real.

Although the idea of a smoke free zone looks appealing and it would send out a positive message for the future, let’s also think of the people who smoke today. Most smokers who do smoke are probably on them years and cannot just give them up. Work with these smokers, do not push them out.

IMAGES: Visitors outside the Coombe Hospital, Dublin 8 – image credit: Alan Finn/

One Response

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