Smokers fume at new cigarette ban on hospital property

Smoking on hospital property in Ontario is now illegal after a new regulation under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act kicked in on Monday.  

In 2016, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, a strategy aimed to cut down tobacco use in the province, gave hospitals a two year head start on the ban by prohibiting smoking on the grounds but allowing for designated smoking areas. The areas were required to have two walls and a roof, and were to be nine metres away from any entrance or exit.

But beginning on Monday, hospital staff, patients and visitors looking to have a cigarette break will no longer be able to go to designated smoking areas. And that’s got some people fuming.

People will ‘absolutely’ break the rules

Elizabeth McPherson, a patient at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare in Toronto’s east end, stood puffing on a cigarette while surrounded by “No Smoking” signs put up in advance of the ban. She said people will “absolutely” break the new rules.

“I’ll say ‘sure, discharge me.’ I’d be really rude, I would,” she told CBC Toronto. “I think it’s silly. If that was the case they should have made cigarettes illegal a long time ago.”

Another patient, Erik Tamman, 62, is a double amputee and a committed smoker. Just getting far enough off the Bridgepoint property to have a cigarette will be difficult, he said. 

“In winter months, in the cold weather, the snow, the snow banks — sometimes the sidewalks aren’t cleared proper,” he told CBC Toronto, while having a smoke outside the hospital on Thursday night. “It’s an issue.”

Elizabeth McPherson

Elizabeth McPherson says the fines issued against people smoking near hospitals won’t deter them. (YanJun Li/CBC)

Many hospitals around the GTHA have announced the ban on their websites. For patients and staff who want to quit, they’ve also included information about counseling and support services, including nicotine replacement therapy.

For example, St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto is offering a smoking cessation clinic for individuals looking to stop smoking, which includes one-on-one counseling.

But Tamman says attempting to quit has been a struggle.

“I’ve been trying the patch a few times, but I find the patch does not work. You still get that craving,” he said.

Tamman says he understand why smoking is being banned on hospital properties, but believes the best way to go would be to keep the designated smoking areas.

“You’ll always have this problem,” he explained. “In the cold weather [smokers] sit by the front door … to keep warm and enjoy their cigarette. The issues are going to just continue.”

‘What are you going to do? Throw them in jail?’

If someone is caught smoking on the grounds the amount of the fine varies from hospital to hospital. But the law states a first time offender could be fined a maximum of $ 1,000. The amount is then raised to a maximum of $ 5,000 if the person reoffends.

Tamman laughed when asked about the penalty.

“How do they expect these people to pay? What are you gonna do? Throw them in jail, do community service? How are you gonna do community service? I’m a double amputee.”

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CBC | Health News