Butt out — nighties, nicotine, and thin blue lines

Picture the scene. It will be like something from that film The Way Back, in which a bedraggled group of strangers make the remarkable journey from the gulags of Siberia all the way to India. It will be something akin to the famine memorial at the docks in Dublin, the desperation evident on the skin of the starved and the desperate.

They will be there, gaunt and grey, their nightgear flapping in the wind, their unbrushed hair a sacrifice to the gales as they struggle manfully to light a cigarette. While pyjamas and nighties are no longer acepted as de rigueur in some social welfare offices around the country, they are to become a more common sight on the streets and roads outside our hospitals as the thin blue line around the facilities is strictly enforced.

No longer will the wonderful glass atrium at the entrance to GUH be clouded in a bag of smoke so permanent that people thought it was a feature of the original architecture; no longer will you have to avert your gaze as you make your way through the pyjama-ed hordes as they will have been shooed out to the gate and beyond if they want to take a puff of the very thing that probably put them in the facility in the first place; no longer will non-smokers be forced to inhale.

Patients and visitors to GUH may consider them selves particularly inconvenienced but they ought to spare a thought for their counterparts in Merlin Park Hospital who face a much longer walk to the nearest point off the property. If they walk to the gate to sample a cigarette, by the time they get back, it will be almost time for another one.

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

The new rules prohibit smoking on the hospital grounds, for example entrances, doorways, walkways, internal roads, bus shelters, car parks, cars, bicycle shelters, etc. This policy will apply to the Merlin Park University Hospital and the University Hospital Galway sites. So, no sneaky cigarettes in the car in the car park.

Harsh as it may seem to smokers, it does make perfect sense that one of the eight regional cancer centres in Ireland should do its utmost to stop facilitating one of the major causes of lung cancer. In the time between writing this article and you reading it, another three people will have lost their lives as a result of lung cancer. It is a major killer and a major consumer of health resources in this country. That the health authorities do their utmost to combat tobacco addiction by taking this drastic step is one that is entirely justified. Within three years, every single public health facility in the country will be outlawing smoking on its property.

It means a lot of pyjamas on the streets, but the owners of those pyjamas may well live longer lives as a result of this measure.


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