I am so excited, I cannot contain myself!!
Yesterday a smoking ban on NHS hospital sites came into force. This new law means that no one on a NHS hospital site can smoke within 15m of a hospital building and cannot smoke under any overhangs of buildings either. This law is enforceable and people who do go against this can face a £50 on the spot fine which can go up to a maximum of £1000. I was fortunate to be able to speak to the BBC and was on Reporting Scotland last night highlighting what this ban means to me.
But will this actually make a difference and what is different this time compared to 2015? If you have followed my blog for a while you may have read my posts about the challenges I have faced over the years when I come into contact with second hand smoke and also the impact of the previous smoking ban on NHS sites (which was not enforceable. These blogs can be found here:
I have been very vocal about the impact of the previous action that the Scottish Government took to try and reduce smoking in and around hospital grounds. Until now I have been very frustrated with the action as it has had actually made things worse not better. Prior to the voluntary smoking ban in 2015 there were smoking shelters around hospital grounds which were actually used and there would only be the odd smoker at doors or entrances. Once the “smoking ban of 2015” came in smokers went wherever they wanted as the ban was not enforceable and no one would move the smokers on when the gathered in huddles at the doors meaning that anyone who entered had to be exposed to second hand smoke wether they liked it or not.
When I found out about this new law I was so excited and elated. It is a feeling not many will understand. Severe asthma has taken so much away from me and so many things out with my control can trigger an attack that can mean I end up on a ventilator in ICU. I do all I can to keep away from potential threats so when I see people smoking, a huge trigger for me, in areas where they are no smoking signs and in places which mean no one can avoid it I get really angry. I cannot begin to think about the amount of money I have cost the NHS because of asthma attacks brought on my exposure to second hand smoke.
Imagine not being able to get into work, safe in the knowledge that you will be able to carry out your work without issue. While I was working in the hospital after 2015 every morning I would search for an entrance way that was free from people smoking but this was often impossible. I would therefore have to run the gauntlet and pray that I can get past without breathing so that my airways are affected as little as possible by the exposure. Getting into work should not be a scary experience. An experience that means you keep your hospital grab bag in your car in case you are admitted to hospital while at work.
What often really angered me and it was an anger I had to keep in until I shared it yesterday on Reporting Scotland was that I was risking my life being exposed to their smoke but then had to look after the very same people that could be responsible for causing me to have an asthma attack and end up in ICU which meant that the ward would be short staffed that day which could compromise their care.
I would so often wish that all those people smoking would think about who they are also affecting by smoking and think that maybe they should smoke somewhere else so they are impacting as few people as possible with their dirty habit. It would be wonderful to be in a world where there is no tobacco and no second hand cigarette smoke but we are not. I am also not preaching that everyone that smokes has to give up because I understand it is an addiction but it is that persons addiction they should not inflict it on other people especially in areas where it cannot be avoided.
Hospitals are places you go to get help with your illness not a place to come and risk illness just getting through the door. Due to long term severe asthma I have other conditions as well as a result of oral corticosteroids which means I am a high user of the NHS and have many appointments which means more exposure to people smoking as I attend my hospital appointments to get myself well. It is a terrifying experience. It has also not only been getting into hospital but once in hospital as a patient on a ward in the summer where you want to have the windows opens but doing that means you end up in the high dependancy unit because there are people smoking beside the no smoking signs and the smoke has come in through the window.
I really hate to think how much I have cost the NHS as a result of being exposed to second hand cigarette smoke. Before I gave up work I wrote to the NHS several times asking for help as my health was suffering as a result of people smoking at the doors as I was on the point of having to give up work (in the end the smoking issue at the doors of the hospital was one of the reasons I stopped work as it was not safe). The reply I got was not what I was expecting and it made my drive to raise the profile of severe asthma even stronger than it was. The reply I got from NHS Lothian was that they have smoking cessation nurses for those smokers who want to give up but there was nothing more they would do. I was so angry that they seemed to brush my concerns aside and it is often the case with others who have challenged the NHS on their smoking policies. They offer the help to smokers of they want help to smoke but they do nothing for those who are negatively impacted by the effects of being exposed to those that are smoking.
Now however I hope this new ban is enforced and hospitals become a safer place. Hospitals will become a place where you can enter without having to think about all the possible risks and you are safe in the knowledge that there is a very high probability that you will be returning home after your appointment. I will be really disappointed and even angry if this ban does not result in change and if hospitals do not employ people to enforce the ban and move the people who are smoking on.
I am up at the hospital on Thursday and will make it known if I find people smoking where they are not meant to. I will probably be compelled to photograph them and send them to the hospital asking why they were allowed to smoke where they were not meant to.
I am hopeful this will work and hospitals will no longer pose a risk to those with lung issues like myself.