There are so many no-smoking signs around the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney that they're hard to miss. What also can't be missed are the smokers and the countless cigarette butts that litter the property.
David Butler, 70, said he visits the regional hospital once a month for appointments and consultations for his or his wife's health conditions.
He said the number of cigarette butts and people smoking outside — sometimes within a few metres of the main entrance — have really started to trouble him. He'd like to see fines introduced for people caught smoking on hospital grounds.
Butler said the initiative could reduce the amount of second-hand smoke on the properties, it would raise money and it could result in fewer people showing up with smoking-related illnesses.
The smoker with an IV bag
One visit to the hospital particularly stands out for Butler.
"I saw a woman coming out, being pushed in a wheelchair with a hospital gown on, reaching for her cigarettes. I look around and there's people there smoking with an IV bag. It's terrible," he said.
Butler said it's evident that people are smoking outside the hospital on a daily basis, which means patients and visitors are exposed to second-hand smoke every day. He said it's time the Nova Scotia Health Authority to do something about it.
"We regret that people are being exposed to second-hand smoke ... when they enter hospital facilities," said health authority spokesperson Greg Boone.
"It's unfortunate and we're sorry for that, but we're doing the best we can on a regular basis to keep people from smoking where they shouldn't be."
Security guards are too busy to focus on smokers
Boone said the security guards contracted for their properties make regular foot patrols and staff members will often ask people not to smoke.
However, Boone said there's often too much activity going on at a hospital to find every person smoking a cigarette.
The health authority said hospitals across the province have posted dozens of no-smoking signs and patients that smoke are given access to nicotine patches and gum.
The health authority's website says all of its properties "are smoke-free and vapour-free."
Butler said that most people "won't learn" unless there are punitive actions taken against them
"We [should] enforce it under provincial legislation that people can be ticketed and we can leave that up to the hospital security," he said.
Butler said he would want the money generated to go back to the hospitals from where the tickets were issued.
Summary offence tickets?
Butler would like to see the tickets be similar to summary offence tickets, which are issued for offences like speeding, littering or being intoxicated in public.
However, Nova Scotia's Smoke-free Places Act requires tickets to be issued by a peace officer appointed under Nova Scotia law.
The health authority said it's considering a number of options to address the problem.