Newly smoke-free hospitals should prescribe tough love: MD

As hospital grounds become completely smoke-free, one Ottawa doctor who specialises in smoking cessation is championing the tough-love route with hospital patients who are smokers.

People smoking outside hospitals a sign of substandard care, according to Heart Institute's Dr. Andrew Pipe

Smoking on hospital grounds is now prohibited under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. (Regis Duvignau/Reuters)

As hospital grounds become completely smoke-free, one Ottawa doctor is championing the tough-love route with hospital patients who are smokers. 

Dr. Andrew Pipe, former chief of the division of prevention and rehabilitation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, spoke with CBC's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday. 

He said that with the ability to meet the challenges of nicotine withdrawal with medications in hospitals, patients should have no reason to stand outside and smoke. 

"I would argue that in 2018, to see patients standing outside hospital doors smoking is in some ways indicative of substandard care," he said.

"Their needs for treatment of tobacco withdrawal symptoms are not being adequately met."

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which kicked in on Monday, bans smoking on hospital property in the province. Violators could face fines of up to $1,000, or up to a maximum of $5,000 for repeat offenders. 

With bars, restaurants, airplanes and even patios now smoke-free, Pipe said it's ironic that hospitals have taken this long to get on board.

The stigma of smoking

Even if people step outside to smoke, they still have a negative effect on others in the facility, Pipe said. 

"You come back into the hospital ward smelling heavily of smoke," he said. "If you're a hospital employee, you go and care for patients who are struggling themselves with tobacco addiction. It's very disconcerting to others."

Local Ottawa hospitals have expanded smoking cessation services including nicotine replacement therapy and counselling, according to a City of Ottawa media release. 

The end result of the ban will be to further stigmatize smoking, Pipe said, and discourage people from starting in the first place. 

"In some respects, [a] patient's care and treatment is being jeopardized by their continuing to smoke," he said. "This is a very profound addiction, and we know that we can help such patients by managing that addiction appropriately."