Beginning this fall, people who violate the tobacco ban at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre can expect to be approached by a security guard.

The hospital has been officially smoke-free since it opened in 2004, but the ban has never been strictly enforced.

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Smokers at Thunder Bay's hospital are being asked to butt-out and take a button. (CBC)

However, that is about to change, officials announced Friday.

Starting Sept. 30, hospital security guards will ask smokers to butt out.  If they refuse, enforcement officers from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit may issue tickets to smokers within nine metres of a hospital entrance.

The health sciences centre has put addiction support programs in place for patients and staff, including a nurse recently hired to help patients quit smoking.

"I approach patients and explain who I am...and offer a service to [them]," said Veronica Proper, smoking cessation nurse at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

"The research this project is based on ... has shown hospitalization is actually a perfect window of opportunity to intervene with patients ... because when someone ends up in hospital, usually ... they're thinking about their health."

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Thunder Bay hospital worker Tamara Rose says she's really surprised how positive her staff is toward the organization's smoking cessation program. (CBC)

But for self-described "rebellious" people like Tamara Rose, a hospital housekeeping supervisor, it may be a challenge to convince nicotine addicts.

"I've been a non-smoker for about a year-and-a-half," she said. "Before that I tried to quit at least 20 times. I'm a really rebellious person and I really don't like to get told what do and I think most people ... feel that way."

Rose was involved with showing managers and supervisors how to approach people about the smoke-free grounds policy "and how to be gentle with them and not get their backs up."

"When we approach [smokers]

on the grounds from now until the end of September we're just saying 'Have you thought about quitting?' and we have cards to give out from the smoker's helpline."

The hospital will not establish a designated smoking area on its property.

A spokesperson at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit said its staff can ticket smokers for violating provincial law close to a hospital entrance, but have no enforcement powers beyond 9 metres of a doorway.