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A sign at the entrance to Beaumont Hospital
A sign at the entrance to Beaumont Hospital
Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

'It's just not good behaviour': Hospital anti-smoking policy flouted by patients and visitors

On 4 July 2012, Beaumont Hospital became a “tobacco-free campus”.
Apr 22nd 2019, 12:06 AM 49,008 156

BEAUMONT HOSPITAL’S NO smoking policy continues to be flouted by patients and visitors, seven years after the hospital announced it would become a smoke-free campus.

On 4 July 2012, Beaumont Hospital became a “tobacco-free campus”. At the time, the hospital said it would “prohibit smoking on the campus in a move to create a healthy, clean and safer environment for patients, staff and visitors”. 

A few months later, TheJournal.ie reported that smoking was still commonplace on the campus. 

On its website, the hospital says that “in line with current legislation, smoking is prohibited in Beaumont Hospital”. 

However, despite the implementation of the policy and the erection of numerous signs throughout the hospital grounds since, it is evident that the policy is still not being followed at all times.

One morning last week, TheJournal.ie spent 30 minutes outside the main entrance Beaumont Hospital’s building.

From 9.20am until 9.50am, 14 people were seen smoking outside the doors or along the pathway to the main entrance. 

It was a busy morning outside the hospital, with patients, staff members and visitors of all ages coming and going. 

Before reaching the walkway towards the main entrance, a large sign is erected which reads: “You are entering a no smoking zone”. 

IMG_8870 (1) This sign marks the beginning of the no smoking zone in Beaumont Hospital Source: Hayley Halpin/TheJournal.ie

When TheJournal.ie arrived at the main entrance to the hospital, which is within the no smoking zone, a woman wearing pyjamas, a man walking with an intravenous drip stand, and another man were standing outside the doors, all smoking cigarettes. 

Along the walkway towards the main entrance of the hospital, numerous ‘no smoking’ signs are painted on the ground, as seen below. 

IMG_8921 These anti-smoking markings are seen along the pathway towards the doors of the Beaumont Hospital's main entrance Source: Hayley Halpin/TheJournal.ie

IMG_8859 Source: Hayley Halpin/TheJournal.ie

As patients, visitors and staff come in and out of the reception, they are reminded of the anti-smoking policy, as the following message is played through the hospital’s speaker system: “Smoking is strictly not allowed in this area to protect the health and wellbeing of patients, visitors and staff.

“The hospital provides a quit smoking service. Contact details are available at reception.”

A short time later, a woman wearing a dressing gown left the hospital reception, stood outside the main entrance and lit a cigarette. 

Over the course of the half hour until 9.50am, another nine people who were smoking cigarettes were seen standing outside the main doors or nearby.

One person was seen vaping. 

At numerous points over the half hour, the smell of tobacco smoke filled the air outside the entrance. 

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland, with almost 6,000 smokers dying each year from tobacco-related diseases, according to the HSE. 

TheJournal.ie found dozens of cigarette butts left scattered along the walkway towards the main entrance and along the grass area alongside the walkway. 

IMG_8930 Cigarette butts left on the grass area beside the hospital's main entrance Source: Hayley Halpin/TheJournal.ie

IMG_8925 (1) Cigarette butts were also found on the walkway towards the main entrance Source: Hayley Halpin/TheJournal.ie

Since the beginning of 2018, one complaint has been recorded by Beaumont Hospital in relation to smoking in the entrance area, according to documents released under Freedom of Information to TheJournal.ie. 

In this case, a patient complained of people smoking at the main entrance of the hospital. An apology letter was sent to the patient containing an explanation of the hospital smoking ban. 

Speaking back in 2012 at the tobacco-free campus launch, then-CEO of Beaumont Hospital Liam Duffy said: “As a major health service provider and hospital, it is our obligation to provide a safe environment for our patients, staff and visitors. 

“The transition to a smoke-free campus is one that Beaumont feels is a necessary and natural step in continuing the provision of safe and effective health care.” 

IMG_8866 This sign hangs on a rail beside the bus stop outside the hospital's main entrance Source: Hayley Halpin/TheJournal.ie

Seven years later, it is now evident that the anti-smoking policy is being continuously flouted by patients and visitors. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, chairperson of ASH Ireland Dr Patrick Doorley said that although there is “no doubt about it” that there is a problem with smoking on Beaumont’s campus, the situation “is better than it was” back before the policy was implemented. 

“People smoking outside the hospital, it’s very visible and people comment on it negatively,” Doorley said. 

“I think while [Beaumont Hospital] has done a lot of good work and good efforts have been made, I think they need to look at that again and they really have to improve,” he said. 

I think it brings the smoke-free movement into disrepute because most people will assume, naturally, that there’s no effort being made here if people are smoking outside the hospital. 

Noted by Doorley, Beaumont Hospital offers a ‘quit smoking’ service to patients. Smoke-free information leaflets are also available on every ward. 

As is detailed above, both patients and visitors were seen by TheJournal.ie outside the main entrance smoking cigarettes. 

Commenting on this, Doorley said Beaumont Hospital could “maybe target information campaigns” at visitors “advising them that they should not encourage their relatives or patients to be smoking outside, indeed, discourage them”. 

“It’s hard to understand why people continue to smoke in that situation, it’s just not good behaviour, to be honest,” he said.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Beaumont Hospital said it “endeavours to have smoke-free grounds to provide a safer, cleaner and healthier environment for all Beaumont Hospital users and to avoid the health risks of passive smoking”. 

Since its introduction the hospital has introduced a number of initiatives to maintain the no-smoking policy as much as possible on the grounds.
This includes staff monitoring the grounds as well as a hospital committee which continuously develops new initiatives including no-smoking signage and others which have varying levels of effectiveness.

“These efforts are in addition to employee’s day-to-day work, which can result in no or limited monitoring in an area for a period of time. While maintaining a smoke-free campus at times, the hospital and staff are committed to achieving a smoke-free campus for the safety of our patients and staff,” the hospital said.  

The Department of Health declined to comment on the enforcement of non-smoking areas in hospitals.

However, it said: “Tobacco control experts in Ireland and internationally recognise that no one element in isolation can be effective in reducing tobacco consumption and moving towards a tobacco-free society. 

“Ireland is currently ranked second out of 34 European countries in relation to tobacco control initiatives.” 

Support for smokers can be found here: 

  • Beaumont Hospital’s Health Promotion Department provides a ‘Quit Smoking Support Service’. It can be contacted on 01 809 2941. 
  • The National Smokers Quitline on 1850 201 203 provides telephone advice, support and follow-up for smokers who wish to quit. 
  • More information about quitting smoking can be found here.
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Hayley Halpin

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