Portiuncula Hospital to be smoke-free from Monday

Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, will become the latest hospital to institute a smoke-free campus policy on Monday next, with smoking banned from all areas of the hospital grounds.

The policy will apply to all staff, patients, visitors, contractors, and anyone who enters the hospital buildings and grounds.

Smoke-free policies have been rolled out in hospital campuses across the country with the aim of having all hospital campuses smoke-free by 2015. The policy forms part of the HSE’s Tobacco Control Framework, which aims to change the social norms around smoking and actively encourage cessation.

“Everyone understands the health implications of smoking — emphysema, heart disease, lung cancers — but these are mainly illnesses of people over 50 years of age when chronic illness strikes,” said Dr Joel Kavanagh, consultant medicine physician at Portiuncula. “I think we need to focus and help convince younger men and women to stop smoking. It is difficult to get the message across regarding the long term health benefits when these are decades away for a 30-year-old smoker. I think it’s important to highlight the personal economic benefits of stopping smoking.

“Smoking 20 cigarettes a day for one year in Ireland equates to at least €3,200 a year. If this statistic is highlighted alongside some images of the lungs of patients with cancer, I believe more younger smokers would take heed and reconsider their tobacco purchase next time they’re in the shop.

“We need to focus on youth smoking reduction, the teenagers and those in their early twenties, as this will reap benefits for the population and the Irish health system several years down the road with reductions in those previous mentioned diseases.

“PHB offers support for patients who are current smokers, young and old, to get professional advice in proven ways to break the nicotine habit.”

According to Chris Kane, the hospital’s acting general manager, the policy has been well received in other hospitals and helps to promote a healthier lifestyle to patients, staff, and visitors.

“We realise that the introduction of a smoke free campus policy will take time to implement fully but the experience of the other hospitals which have introduced this policy has been very positive and we believe that the majority of people will support the implementation of the new policy,” Ms Kane said.

“We will be able to grant exemptions to the policy for patients in certain circumstances with the input from their consultant. In this way we may make exceptions for the most vulnerable patients while also encouraging all other patients to adopt healthier tobacco-free lifestyles in order to decrease the incidence of smoking related disease. Providing a smoke free environment sends a clear message that this hospital is committed to protecting and promoting the health of our patients, staff, and all who visit Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe.”

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