Eastern Health tightens smoking restrictions

An expanded no-smoking policy went into effect at hospitals under the control of Newfoundland and Labrador's largest health authority Wednesday.

An expanded no-smoking policy went into effect at health care facilities operated by Newfoundland and Labrador's largest health authority Wednesday.

Patients, visitors and workers at Eastern Health facilities must now leave the property if they want to have a cigarette. All of the health agency's properties, including parking lots and the inside of vehicles parked on hospital grounds, have been designated tobacco-free zones.

The Eastern Health region includes the Avalon Peninsula, the Burin Peninsula and the area west to Clarenville.

"Employees don't want to be walking through a cloud of smoke every morning," said X-Ray technician Curtis Billard in St. John's.

Eastern Health has been warning people for the past six months that today's ban was coming.

Not everyone agrees with the new measures. On Wednesday, some people were still smoking in areas where it is now forbidden to do so.

"I don't think it's fair at all for them to cut it completely out and make us go up in the woods somewhere," said patient Meghan Warren as she smoked on a traffic island outside the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's.

"Not very realistic, especially on wet days or in the winter when it's snowing," added out-patient Bill Adams, as he smoked with Warren in an area that clearly falls under the new ban.

Adams said he doesn't believe the ban is going to work.

"People aren't being ticketed. They aren't being escorted off the premises or anything," he said. "So, I think it's an empty threat right now."

But Eastern Health's chief operating officer, Pat Coish-Snow, believes the stricter new policy should be easier to enforce, because smoking now isn't allowed anywhere near the hospital facilities.

"This is going to take some time for people to adjust to, 'cause it is a change," she said. "We will be asking people who do not abide by the policy to stop smoking or to move off the property to do so."  

Designated smoking areas will remain for people already living in long-term care facilities, but new patients won't be allowed to smoke on the property.