Majority of NHS trusts still prohibit vaping on hospital grounds
Mon 11th March, 2019
The majority of NHS trusts in England are still banning vaping on hospital grounds despite a call by Public Health England in February 2018 to make e-cigarettes available for sale in hospital shops and to remove restrictions on their use.
A report published today by the smokers’ group Forest based on freedom of information requests to 200 NHS trusts in England found that 55 per cent of the 170 respondents continue to prohibit vaping on hospital grounds, with nine in ten (89 per cent) banning the use of e-cigarettes in hospital buildings.
The study, 'Prejudice and Prohibition: Results of a study of smoking and vaping policies in NHS hospital trusts in England', did however find that a number of NHS trusts are reviewing their policies on e-cigarettes with 14 per cent reporting that they intend to lift vaping bans in 2019.
In contrast fewer than one in four NHS trusts now allow smoking on hospital grounds. Three quarters (76 per cent) of the trusts that responded to the survey said they did not tolerate smoking anywhere on site, including hospital car parks, while only one in five provided a shelter for smokers.
Eighteen trusts (10 per cent) said they plan to tighten restrictions on smoking in 2019 by removing smoking shelters and extending no-smoking areas.
Summarising the findings, the report calls for vaping to be permitted on all hospital sites with no restrictions in outdoor areas. The use of e-cigarettes, it adds, should be allowed inside hospital buildings, including wards, at the discretion of hospital management.
Other recommendations include allowing smoking outside hospital buildings with smokers incentivised to smoke away from hospital entrances by the provision of designated smoking areas, clearly signposted.
On sites where smoking is prohibited, the report says trusts must take steps not to discriminate against patients who are infirm or dependent on others to accompany them off site to smoke.
Mark Tovey, author of the report, said:
“One way to keep hospital grounds relatively smoke free without banning smoking completely or resorting to legislation and threats of fines and other penalties is to actively promote safer nicotine products such as e-cigarettes.
“Instead many NHS trusts choose to ban vaping as well as smoking. This makes no sense because it penalises ex-smokers who have switched to e-cigarettes and current smokers who are vaping to help them quit.”
Simon Clark, director of Forest, said:
“We welcome the fact that some trusts are reviewing their policies on the use of e-cigarettes but adopting a more sensible approach to vaping shouldn’t come at the price of a complete ban on smoking.
“Banning smoking on hospital grounds demonstrates a staggering lack of compassion for smokers who may be stressed, upset and in need of a comforting cigarette.
“A reasonable policy would lift restrictions on vaping but give those who prefer to smoke the option of sheltered smoking areas.”
To download the full report click here.