Thursday, 4 July 2013

Three smoking wardens fail to manage the problem

The story is here. Three men hired (at £12,000 a year each) to ensure adherence to the smoking policy at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow left after days following abuse from smokers outside the hospital.

I sympathise with the wardens to the extent that £12,000 is very poor compensation for work that brings public ire upon you. But the basis on which they were employed was wrong. I was visiting a relative in hospital recently and was struck with how few smokers could be seen in the grounds of the hospital – considering how many smokers are around at any one time, a huge building, thirteen or so storeys high, I doubt whether I ever passed more than a dozen or so smokers in the 200 yards or so between the main door and the gate off the premises – the signs do seem to be observed by most people most of the time.

Unfortunately there are laws against managing this issue effectively. What these wardens were employed to do was effectively to tell these people off for not behaving considerately (even if they thought they were 'helping' them by offering them the opportunity to stop smoking). What the situation needs is an alternative that smokers can choose in preference to standing in the doorways, or shivering under a sign. This means a comfortable, air conditioned room in which they can enjoy a coffee and a newspaper.

Health authorities do not like to contemplate that such courtesies could be offered to smokers, as they believe that they will encourage other people to smoke. They should remember that at the time such facilities were offered, smoking rates were falling faster than they are now. They believe that public hostility will stop people smoking, in line with their support for denormalisation and stigmatisation (approaches to human behaviour that have no place in a public health setting).

I am not surprised at the hostility of smokers, who are tax-paying members of the public. Public hostility is being whipped up against them, with the use of posters explaining how their smoke drifts through open windows and into the lungs of desperately ill children (as if the smoke were distinguishable from general urban pollution).  This is a matter of policy, because it is easier to blame smokers for lack of consideration than to solve the problem by catering for them with respect, and in a way that does not inconvenience others.

Employing wardens (especially on the cheap) to deal with the consequences of a blanket ban on health service premises was never going to work. Solving the problem will take a reversal in the law to enable the provision of a proper smoking room – anything else will just be a sticking plaster.


Levenax said...

It's a bit much that smokers can't be civil to employees of the Health Board. All they need to do is indicate politely that they are smoking without inconveniencing other people. The wardens have no power to stop them. The area around the lobby entrance at Gartnavel was frequently packed out with smokers, especially on wet days, and the public had to walk through a smelly cloud of smoke to get inside. The one small diversion that raised a smile sometimes was the sight of patients trailing drip stands or amputees in wheelchairs out in the cold gasping their last on ciggies.

Pat Nurse MA said...

The reaction to these wardens demonstrates clearly that most smokers do not want to quit and those who enjoy smoking tobacco - which isn't a crime - yet - should be left alone in peace and they should have somewhere to go where they will not be bothered or harassed.

It's a shame that smokers have to put up with the foul attitude of smokerphobics who think it funny that the ill are forced outside on drips.

It is becoming more obvious every day that this issue is not about health but the hysteria of the intolerant like Levenax

He or she should remember that smokers pay for the healthcare of those that hate them too.

Funding such bullying is stealing much needed money from those NHS children's heart hospitals and cancer wards forced to close due to lack of money being spent on such ridiculous "initiatives".

Belinda said...

No one is defending insulting behaviour. These three unfortunate wardens are being used by well-paid NHS executives and medics to take the punches from those alienated by this policy of stigmatising smokers. Anyone who expects to earn a living challenging people's behaviour, especially in situations where they have no legal standing, is likely to experience hostility. Those people commenting who say that the highly paid personnel who support the policy should personally carry out the 'enforcement' (for which they have no legal authority anyway) at the wage offered to the wardens have it bang to rights. But a better idea would be to scrap the ban and bring back the smoking rooms.

Pat Nurse MA said...

I don't support violence nor insulting behaviour - just to be clear - but when it comes to insulting behaviour the anti-smoker industry is the pot calling the kettle black.

I agree with the rest of your comment too.

Anonymous said...

I am a smoking warden for the nhs and have been dealing with the abuse and aggro since june, and I totally agree with some of the comments, being a smoker myself I empathise but as the previous comments have said we have no powers whatsover but we are in place as a public service for the non smokers, as I and a lot of smokers know its a disgusting habit, it smells, its tastes horrible and it effects health so why force that upon someone who doesn't smoke? We are not using bullying tactics in anyway, we politely and curteously remind smokers of hospital policy, and yes our wages should probably go to better things but shouldn't the money thats being used for smoking related illnesses and the cleaners it takes to clean up the mess smokers leave behind go to greater causes also?, I have never smoked in a hospital, even before I started in this job as its not fair on anyone, not the newborns coming out of maternity, not the patients coming out of wards for fresh air not the staff in their offices with their Windows opened, smokers need to think who their second hand smoke is harming because it definitely isn't just themselves, it is not a personal vendetta, its a reminder that if smokers have no sense of respect for other people then why should they be respected and left to have some peace having their smoke?!

Anonymous said...

It costs the nhs £204,000pa to employ 17 wardens in the greater Glasgow and Clyde area, but costs them £2.7bn a year to treat smoking related illnesses! So who's costing the money here? Think about it!

Belinda said...

The solution is to have a comfortable area for smokers. That would avoid the rather silly issue of who is disrespecting the other party. It would get most smokers away from the doorways.