Smokers at western Sydney hospitals will now be given verbal warnings, reminders and even fines if they are caught lighting up near hospital entrances.
Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) is part of a new pilot program, aimed at stepping up compliance with smoking laws and protecting the community’s health.
The NSW Government invested $4.4 million in the 2017-18 State Budget to tackle smoking and $1.8 million for the Cancer Institute NSW’s Quitline and iCanQuit services.
NSW Health’s tobacco enforcement unit will visit Westmead, Blacktown, Mount Druitt and Auburn hospitals to remind people about the laws prohibiting smoking in health facilities and within four metres of an entrance or exit to a public building.
Inspectors will visit at pre-determined times to remind people that all WSLHD facilities and grounds are smoke-free. They will give verbal warnings and reminders to people spotted smoking near hospital entrances.
They are also authorised to issue $300 fines if necessary.
Smoking continues to be a problem in western Sydney, with 14.3 per cent of adults smoking.*
WSLHD’s Centre for Population Health deputy director Christine Newman said the new initiative was critical to protect the health of patients, staff and visitors.
“Smoking is the leading cause of disease and premature death, and we’re fully committed to reducing its impact on people’s lives,” she said.
“Our hospitals exist to help people get healthy, so we believe this is where the prevention of disease should start; we want to protect people entering the hospital, including people who are unwell, pregnant women, children, and particularly those with asthma or respiratory problems.”
Ms Newman said support for smokers wanting to quit was critical, as butting out for good often took several attempts.
“It can take a few tries before people quit for good but just taking small steps can make a huge difference – start by not smoking in the car, or cutting cigarettes out in the morning and build slowly to quitting,” she said.
“There are so many health benefits of quitting – after just 20 minutes without a cigarette, your heart rate decreases; after two weeks, the risk of heart attack begins to reduce and after a year, your risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by half.”
WSLHD is one of three regions to participate in the pilot program. NSW Health and participating LHDs will assess outcomes from the pilot, before deciding how to strengthen compliance with smoke-free laws across NSW.
For help quitting smoking, contact the Quitline on 137 848.
*Source: HealthStats 2016