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Waikato DHB cracks down on smoking

Smokefree signs

Waikato District Health board is committed to blowing away the smoke of one of New Zealand’s biggest killers from its hospital grounds and being tupeka kore (tobacco free) and auahi kore (smokefree).

The Board reaffirmed the DHB’s smokefree policy in April ahead of world smokefree day today (31 May) where new initiatives will be implemented including better smokefree support for patients, visitors and staff as well as increased security and new signage at Waikato Hospital.

Waikato DHB is proud of the efforts made across New Zealand with 84 per cent of people now being smokefree, and believes in the aim of Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, but Waikato Hospital continues to have a big problem where smoking still persists.

Interim chief executive Derek Wright said: “Patients and staff are being affected by the second and third hand smoke from patients and visitors smoking right outside our hospital buildings. Hot spots are outside Women’s and Children’s Health, Menzies building entrance and the Emergency Department.

“Outside Menzies, clouds of smoke waft into our respiratory and cardiology wards where very sick patients and staff cannot open their windows, and we’ve had many complaints about the second hand smoke.

“We want to make our hospitals’ smokefree and want everybody’s help in spreading the message that there is absolutely no smoking or vaping on hospital grounds, especially at Waikato Hospital,” states Derek.

One patient Paul Cronin said: “Apart from not wanting to intentionally take in cancer causing chemicals I am allergic to tobacco smoke, my throat tightens and I begin to wheeze and struggle for breath, Asthma in other words.

“Recently I had shortage of breath for a different reason; I ended up having to go to Waikato Hospital. Not long after I was admitted to the Coronary Care Unit [above the Menzies building entrance], I found myself struggling even more to breathe. I could smell tobacco smoke, how could it be I wondered? Smoke in the hospital I thought it was banned. I asked a nurse what the story was, it is the smokers out the front she said, sure enough one story down they were puffing on their cancer sticks, the smoke rising and circulating through all of the Coronary Wards and through the public entrance.

“Smoking tobacco in the presence of non-smokers is dangerous because it can and does induce asthma attacks,” Mr Cronin says.

Waikato DHB public health physician Dr Nina Scott explains, “We know it’s an addiction, and like any addiction it’s very hard to overcome, especially at hospitals where patients are not here by choice and their emotions, anxiety and fears are high. This is where our staff will be making a big effort to dramatically increase the provision of smoking cessation support by routinely providing nicotine replacement therapies (patch, lozenge and gum also known as NRT) to all patients who smoke every day.”

Patients will also be shown how to correctly use the NRT.

“In the past, we have found that many people have not been shown how to use NRT properly and have not used enough to stop the withdrawals – which is the aim of NRT. Referrals to our local stop smoking services Once and For All will now be standard practice too,” she says.

“We’re also asking patients, visitors and staff coming to Waikato Hospital to respect their and their loved ones health, and all patients and staff. Please leave your tobacco at home. We have staff here that can help you and your loved ones to be smokefree,” states Dr Scott

Smoking causes more deaths every year than all other preventable deaths including road incidents, suicides, drownings, and electrocutions combined. Around 5000 Kiwis die each year from a smoking-related disease every year. Of this, over 300 people who didn’t even smoke die from second-hand smoke. Third hand smoke is also a problem and is the toxic cancer causing chemicals from the cigarette smoke that is left on surfaces like walls and furniture.

More about Waikato DHB’s smokefree initiatives:

Waikato Hospital is working on a number of initiatives to achieve this to support everyone who steps foot on the grounds to be smokefree and to have a smokefree environment including:

– better patient and staff support with routine issue of clean nicotine products and referral to stop smoking services

– access to Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for visitors

– increased signage and security, especially in the hotspot areas

– Cleaning up of hot spot areas where hospitals grounds have become like an ashtray, covered in cigarette butts.

While smoking is still legal in New Zealand, the Smokefree Environment and the Health and Safety at Work Acts do require Waikato DHB to protect non-smokers – staff and patients from being affected by the toxic fumes of burning tobacco.

Dr Scott says: “It’s our duty as healthcare professionals to keep upholding these acts, reminding people there is a human right to clean air.”

If you are looking for support to quit smoking please contact one of the following:

– Local stop Smoking Service for face to face support 0800 6623 4255 or go to www.onceandforall.co.nz (highly recommended)

– Quitline 0800 778 778 https://quit.org.nz/en/register

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