A smoking ban on NHS hospital grounds is a good idea. It's the last thing patients - and staff - should be doing

Removing smoking will encourage an out-of-sight-out-of-mind cultural shift

Share
Related Topics

One of the first things you see on arriving at my local hospital, King’s College in south London, is the clear plastic bus shelter housing several patients a long way from their wards. Some of them are in wheelchairs, dressed in their pastel green hospital gowns, others looking so frail you wonder whether they should be out of bed at all and outside in the cold. All of them are smoking.

As you walk into the hospital, with the stress and worry of your own illness or that of a member of your family uppermost in your mind, it is a truly depressing sight.

If advice by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) to ban smoking on hospital premises is followed, these sad shelters will be gone. No patients - or staff – should be allowed to smoke anywhere on site, even in a far-flung outpost in the car park, Nice says.

As a former smoker, and as someone instinctively wary about the state becoming too much of a nanny, I should be in favour of allowing patients to do what they want, as long as it doesn’t affect others.

But when Professor Mike Kelly, public health chief of Nice, says the NHS needs a “culture shift” to end “the terrible spectacle of people on drips in hospital gowns smoking outside hospital entrances”, I am afraid he is right.

It is one thing to not stop a smoker satisfying his or her addiction – if they are fit enough to walk off site, then let them do that. But if the patient is not able to walk that far, the last thing they should be doing is smoking. The NHS should not act as an enabler for their addictions, either by permitting nurses or healthcare assistants to help the patient down the stairs, or by providing the shelter in the first place.

From my smoking days, I know there is nothing like seeing a group of people puffing away on cigarettes to make you also want a fag. Like banning smoking in pubs (instrumental in helping me quit several years ago), removing it from the NHS will indeed encourage an out-of-sight-out-of-mind cultural shift – and improve patients’ lives.

For nurses, doctors and other staff who want to smoke in their breaks, trusts should be even tougher: don’t smoke when you’re on duty. I will never forget the moment a midwife, on a home visit to my week-old baby, put her finger in my daughter’s mouth to demonstrate latching-on. As my baby clamped her lips around the midwife’s finger, the smell of fresh cigarette smoke wafted around her hands, and I recoiled in horror. Any who comes into contact with patients – nurses who have hands-on contact - should not be doing their jobs smelling of smoke. Staff will say they need a cigarette to relieve stress, but the long-term effects of smoking do more harm.

Nice’s new advice underlines the mixed messages we are given on public health. The Government, after the election, promised to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes, acknowledging the evidence that it would curb smoking, but then caved into pressure from the tobacco industry by shelving the plans. Ministers should back Nice on smoking in hospitals – but they should also look again at plain packaging to wean us off this habit altogether.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May