A group of Thunder Bay hospital staff members and administrators marched around the building Monday morning to raise awareness that smoking on hospital grounds will not be tolerated in future.

The event was staged to launch a new effort to get patients and visitors to respect the smoking ban that has been largely ignored. On paper, the hospital has had a smoke-free-grounds policy since it opened nine years ago — something officials admit has not been consistently enforced.

"What we have done now is revise the policy a bit so it is much more comprehensive," said Kelly-Jo Gillis, manager of preventative health services with Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

"We really have spent a lot of time focusing on the education and awareness so that people know we are smoke free."

Gillis said hospital security staff will tell people who are caught smoking about the rule and will encourage them to smoke away from the property.

Kelly-Jo Gillis

Kelly-Jo Gillis, Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre (Gord Ellis/CBC)

“Today TBRHSC joins an ever-growing number of hospitals that recognize the positive role that providing a smoke-free environment can play in their communities and that implementing smoke-free grounds is an important part in promoting healthy choices and health in the community,” said Andrée Robichaud, hospital president and CEO, in a press release.

Currently, charges can only be laid by tobacco enforcement officers who catch smokers within 9 metres of an entrance. However the hospital is asking city council to extend the municipal smoking bylaw to hospital grounds, which would allow security staff and health unit personnel to issue tickets.