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‘It’s really mean-spirited’: Smokers’ rights campaigners slam ban across whole hospital site

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Smokers’ rights campaigners have criticised a move which bans smoking across the entire hospital site in Lynn.It comes after officials at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital announced that all buildings and grounds at the premises off Gayton Road were completely smoke-free – with smoking tobacco banned – earlier this month.Health chiefs said the move had been made in a bid to improve the health of patients, staff and the local community.

Smokers’ rights campaigners have criticised the move to ban smoking tobacco at the QEH in Lynn. Picture: iStock/Zang Rhong

But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ rights group Forest, said that banning smoking in the open air took “petty officialdom to a new level”.”Denying smokers the chance to have a comforting cigarette when they might be at a low ebb is a really mean-spirited thing to do,” he said. “We completely understand that hospitals don’t want to encourage smoking. The reality however is that hospitals can be stressful places for patients, visitors, and even members of staff.

Smoking is now banned across the whole Queen Elizabeth Hospital site in Lynn

“Many people smoke to relieve stress. For some, it offers a moment of comfort at a difficult time.”Banning smoking outside, even in the open air and away from hospital entrances, takes petty officialdom to a new level.”Mr Clark has now urged health chiefs to reverse the decision.”Leaving aside the difficulty of enforcement, smoking in the open air doesn’t harm anyone else so the policy seems utterly pointless,” he said. “We therefore urge hospital managers to show some common sense and compassion and formally permit smoking in outdoor smoking areas, preferably with shelters that offer some protection in bad weather.”Announcing the changes earlier this month, QEH bosses said that there are no designated smoking areas on the site, and doing so is not permitted in the QEH’s gardens, walkways or shelters. Those who are seen smoking will be reminded that it is a smoke-free site, informed of the available smoking cessation support and asked to leave the grounds if they wish to smoke.Patients who smoke who attend the hospital will be given support through nicotine replacement therapy when they are admitted. In response to the comments from Forest, Felicity Meyer, deputy medical director at the QEH, said: “We are committed to helping support the health outcomes for our local population by playing our part in reducing smoking prevalence by becoming a smoke-free site and removing triggers to smoke.“This change brings us in line with the other acute hospitals in the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System which are also smoke-free sites. “Smoking tobacco is currently the world’s single biggest cause of preventable death and the single largest driver of health inequalities in England, and there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.”We recognise that to stop smoking tobacco can be really tough for some people and we will continue to sign-post both our patients and staff who need support to local organisations who can help them quit.”

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