Health board step up efforts to help both staff and patients stub out their smoking habit

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Although progress has been made in the last few years with Borderers trying to kick their smoking habit, as we begin a new year NHS Borders are once again reminding people of the benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle not just to the individuals concerned but those around them too.

Smoking was quite high on the agenda for the health board’s annual review (for the year April 2010- March 2011) when it was noted that the number of smokers successfully quitting for a month, using local cessation services, was 1,822 as at December 2010, 24 per cent above the target of 1,464.

The issue also featured strongly in the annual report of Dr Eric Baijal, joint director of public health at NHS Borders in which he admitted that “smoking remains a challenge”, in particular second hand smoke.

Second hand smoke is both the smoke exhaled by the smoker and also the smoke which escapes from a tobacco product. It is particularly dangerous to babies and young children, as their respiratory systems are still developing and they therefore breathe more deeply and more frequently.

In children it can lead to: meningitis; cot death; middle ear infections and asthma as well as increasing the risk of them developing a respiratory infection.

To try and lower the risk of smoke damaging the health of Borders smokers and their families, in 2010 NHS Borders launched their Smoke Free Homes initiative.

The primary focus of the campaign is to protect young children from exposure to second hand smoke, and simply asks parents of young children to sign up to a promise to keep all or part of their house smoke free.

Promises can be made at three levels - gold: make your home totally smoke free at all times; silver: never smoke in the presence of children and smoke only in one well ventilated room and bronze: never smoke in the presence of children or other non-smokers within your home

Since its launch, the campaign has been widely promoted in a range of ways, such as among childminders and in retail settings and Dr Baijal is pleased with how successful it’s been so far.

Leading by example, NHS Borders recently approved a revised tobacco policy which aims to maximise health improvement for NHS Borders staff, service users and visitors.

The new policy prohibits smoking in the grounds of all the health board’s hospitals and surgeries, with only a few exceptions.

Dr Eric Baijal said: “Tobacco smoking is an addictive habit which represents the single largest preventable cause of ill health and death in Scotland. Tobacco smoke in the environment is also a health hazard to non-smokers.

“NHS Borders is committed to promoting healthy living and non-smoking as our normal culture. We are doing this by ensuring a smoke-free environment, and offering support to those who want to give up. This policy aims to protect not only our staff, but anyone who uses our premises.

“The revised policy means that no smoking is our norm in all locations with a few exceptions, which are fully described in the policy. All staff, patients and visitors are now prohibited from smoking on all NHS Borders sites including grounds and car-parks as well as inside the buildings.”

Due to the unique size of the BGH grounds, it has been decided to allow smoking to take place within car parks 1-6 as people exit their cars but not on pedestrian routes to and from the hospital.

Calum Campbell, chief executive, added: “As a health care provider it is important that NHS Borders is seen by the community as leading the way in spreading the health improvement message regarding life style choices, it is right and proper that we discourage smoking and enable and support our community in improving their health.

“Our long-term aim has always been to achieve a completely smoke free environment and this is one more important step towards achieving this.

“With the exception of the BGH car parks, anyone smoking on our premises should expect to be asked to stop. In this situation, we would ask people to comply with the request to put the cigarette out or move to an area outside the grounds and respect the fact that staff are only trying to promote our health improvement message. ”

“Our mental health in-patients units have made a significant step forward by agreeing with stakeholders that smoking will be allowed within external designated areas only.”

As well as restricting where people can smoke, NHS Borders are continuing to help both staff and patients who are keen to kick their smoking habit. NHS Borders Smoking Cessation service provides support to smokers who wish to stop smoking under the Quit 4 Good programme through one-to-one advice and support groups.