Roncy Villagers ask smokers to butt out — elsewhere

[attach]1137[/attach]Glendale Avenue residents say they are fed up with patients, visitors, and employees from nearby St. Joseph’s Health Centre using their street as a smoking lounge and their yards as ashtrays.

A walk down Glendale shows sidewalks covered in cigarette butts, crushed cigarette packs, and lawns fringed with smoking debris.

“On a nice day I cannot cross the road with my children without inhaling cigarette smoke,” Glendale resident Halina Jakowski said.

Patrons and employees are prohibited from smoking within nine metres of the building, in accordance with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, hospital spokesperson Rick Edwards said. The hospital has allocated areas with ashtrays to encourage smokers to stay away from emergency entrances.

When a reporter visited on Dec. 16, one of the ashtrays on Glendale Avenue had no receptacle inside for cigarette butts—allowing them to pile up on the ground.

Glendale resident Daniel, who asked his last name be withheld, said the garbage left by smokers is unsightly. “The main concern for us is the cigarette butts coming on this side of the street. If they could make a habit of putting their butts in the ashtray, that would help.”

But it isn’t just patients and visitors smoking on the street. Daniel said he often sees hospital employees in scrubs puffing on cigarettes as well.

Jakowski said the presence of smokers exposes nearly a dozen children living on the street to cigarettes, and makes smoking seem acceptable. She has even caught her children imitating smokers with their fingers to their mouths.

“The kids are watching people in suits—professionals—smoking.”

A hospital patient who identified herself as Molly Mae said she doesn’t want to cause trouble with neighbours.

“I’d rather not smoke on the sidewalk and freeze, but I can’t smoke near the doors,” Mae said. “People are stuck here, some of them for a long time, and have nothing else to do.”

Another smoker, Brian Potts, said the hospital doesn’t give people a choice where to smoke. “I’d rather not be on the sidewalk but they’d fine me if I wasn’t, so I either bug the neighbours or get a fine.”

Edwards said the hospital is trying to strike a balance between the rights of smokers and the rights of non-smokers the best it can.

“We are in a balancing act. As a health care institution we are trying to discourage our staff from smoking, but we also recognize they are free ranging individuals.”

In addition, if smokers leave the property, they are no longer breaking hospital policy and security cannot do anything about it.

“Our authority does not go beyond our property,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the hospital has printed out a combination brochure/ticket that security will be giving to smokers congregating in non-smoking areas. They will inform smokers of the hazards of smoking, of the law regarding smoking near hospitals, and of the designated smoking areas.

“There will be a record of the number of times security approaches an employee, and the third ticket enters into the progressive disciplinary policy we keep on employees.” Edwards said he hopes the initiative will stop many of the smokers from leaving the property or smoking near hospital doors.

Daniel admitted the hospital has to maintain a delicate balance, but said when it comes to the employees, the hospital should be firm.

“They do work at the hospital, which does have a responsibility to accommodate their employees, and at the same time maintain a good neighbourhood relationship,” Daniel said.

Edwards said they have made improvements to the balance and will monitor the situation.