Tobacco Ban Gives Smokers Few Options

Tobacco Ban Gives Smokers Few Options
By: Crystal Britt

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - It's becoming the norm, more and more hospitals are going smoke-free. One year ago this month Southeast Missouri Hospital in Cape Girardeau banned all tobacco use not just outside the building but you can't even smoke on its property.
If you've been to Southeast, or driven by you know it's right in the middle of a residential/business community. The tobacco ban has been in effect since September of 2006.  The hospital is just now cracking down on the rules now that people have had plenty of time to get used to them.
So where are smokers going? Tamela Jones says in front of her home. She lives across the street from the hospital and tells Heartland News that over the last few days large groups have gathered near her lawn.  She's spent the last few mornings picking up cigarette butts.  She contacted the hospital to complain and admits things are a little better. She even empathizes with the smokers.
"I'm a smoker.  I understand the frustrations these poor people have being run off hospital property.  However, I don't feel it's my responsibility being one of the hospital's residential neighbors to become their smoking section or have my home become their smoking section," said Jones.
The hospital does not have any plans to put in designated smoking areas and apparently sidewalks are off limits too because Southeast maintains them.  The hospital released the following statement.
"In September 2006, with the encouragement of the Missouri Hospital Association, Southeast Missouri Hospital, along with most other hospitals in Missouri, adopted a tobacco-free policy inside and outside.  The action was endorsed by Southeast's board of trustees.  Hospital leadership believes that this action is in keeping with Southeast's mission to improve the health of those we serve, not only patients, families and visitors, but also those who work at Southeast.  It is not the hospital's intent to take away an individual's right to smoke or use tobacco.  We are simply asking that tobacco not be used on hospital properties.  We regret any problems this may have created for some of our neighbors; however, hospital staff is limited to tobacco policy enforcement on hospital properties only.  To make this transition less difficult, patients during their stay at Southeast are able to receive at no charge nicotine replacement products based on physician orders.  Southeast employees and others affiliated with the hospital may enroll in tobacco cessation classes offered by Southeast's wellness services.  When the tobacco-free policy was implemented, a decision was made to allow those who use tobacco time to acclimate.  A year has passed, and we are now going to take a more active approach toward enforcing the policy."
Heartland News checked the smoking policies at other Heartland hospitals.
Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion went totally smoke-free this summer and no word yet on any problems.  Carbondale Memorial are went smoke-free.  You can't smoke any where inside or out and they don't have designated smoking areas.
At Lourdes in Paducah and St. Francis in Cape Girardeau you can't smoke inside at all.  At St. Francis, you can't smoke within 50 feet of entrances.  However, both of those hospitals do have places for people to light up.