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Hospitals 'must' become tobacco-free

New campaign urges hospitals to do more to stamp out smoking

Mark Gould

Monday, 27 February 2017

The NHS must be "truly tobacco free" with all hospitals implementing a total ban on smoking across their sites, says Public Health England (PHE) chief executive Duncan Selbie.

Mr Selbie has written to all NHS trust chief executives setting out details of PHE's new campaign to encourage hospitals to do more to stamp out smoking.

A recent report by the British Thoracic Society found that only one in ten hospitals implements a total ban. The report also found that 25% of hospital patients were recorded as being "current smokers" - which is higher than rates in the general adult population (19%). It also found that over seven in 10 (72%) hospital patients who smoked were not asked if they would like to stop. The report quoted other studies which have shown that approximately 1.1 million smokers are admitted to NHS hospitals a year.

Mr Selbie said: "We want to see a truly tobacco-free NHS where every hospital's buildings and grounds are completely smoke-free. Twenty-five per cent of patients in hospital are smokers. I believe we can make the NHS a place that provides a supportive tobacco-free environment for patients, staff and visitors, where helping people quit is fully integrated into their treatment."

Trusts are being provided with full details of how two NHS trusts, South London and the Maudsley, and Medway, implemented a total smoking ban. South London and the Maudsley has also introduced a policy allowing patients to buy and use e-cigarettes.

Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust broadcast the recorded voices of children on their Tannoy system reminding smokers of the dangers and that it is a smoke-free site.

But Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said banning smoking on hospital grounds would be a "gross over-reaction".

"It won't stop people smoking. It will simply force people to smoke further away, which will discriminate against those who are physically infirm or in a wheelchair,” he said.

He added: "The impact on public health will be minimal because smoking in the open air is no threat to anyone else's health.

"The reality is that hospitals can be stressful places for patients, visitors and staff. Instead of campaigning for a tobacco-free environment Public Health England should show some compassion for the many people for whom smoking is a comfort at a difficult time."

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