Some smokers are angry they cannot light up at local hospitals
Smokers often cluster into groups and puff away near the ashtrays and benches just outside the doors of local hospitals.
In 1997 Columbia passed ordinances that restrict smoking in public areas. Smoking is not allowed in restrooms, educational facilities, city buildings, commercial establishments other than bars and smaller restaurants, on buses or taxis, or within 20 feet of any building where smoking is restricted.
Smoking is also prohibited in hospitals and other health care facilities, with one exception. Hospitals can provide smoking rooms for patients. However, none of the hospitals in town do.
Itâ€™s fair to me to have people smoke outside, said smoker Brenda Koechneroutside Boone Hospital Center. Iâ€™m used to being outside, but they can fix a better place if itâ€™s winter.
Employees and patient smokers at Truman Veterans Hospital can take advantage of a smoking shelter, called the 'smoking shack,' outside the hospital.
At Boone, employees are not allowed to smoke on the property at all. A nurse from another hospital who was visiting a patient at Boone said she doesnâ€™t like the policy.
I could never work here, she said. It isnâ€™t right for them to ban smoking outside. Employees are under stress and to take them away from their job to walk across the street isnâ€™t fair.
In the past, neighbors have complained that hospital employees smoke in their yards.
The policy creates more work for the environmental services manager, who has to police hospital hallways and stairwells for smokers. He also must adjust overtime hours for employees who take smoking breaks. Employees who take smoking breaks clock out.
Truman Veterans Hospital provides a small beige shed behind the building, known by patients and employees as the smoking shack. But nurses and patients still think it is inadequate.
As a former smoker, I think that everyone is an adult and should have a choice, said a VA hospital nurse, who asked that she not be named. They should provide an area and allow people to make their own choices.
Another VA nurse, who also requested anonymity, brought up the issue of patientsâ€™ rights.
I donâ€™t think you should have smoking in hospitals, but we have a nursing home care unit, she said. This is the clientsâ€™ home and they are told that they canâ€™t smoke in their own room and arenâ€™t necessarily capable of going outside. It is a fine line to walk between a smoke-free environment in the hospital and veteranâ€™s rights, and our rights as employees.
Steve, a patient at the VA who asked to be identified only by his first name, wants to smoke inside. He said he dislikes the smoking shack because it stinks and is overcrowded when itâ€™s raining.
I think itâ€™s discrimination, Steve said. They should have a smoking area inside. The shack wonâ€™t handle the load of patients and staff who smoke.
VA hospital representative Gary Campbell said that most patients are only in the hospital for two to three months and, like Boone Hospital Center, Truman Veterans Hospital works with patients and staff to help them quit smoking.
Some hospital visitors believe prohibiting smoking altogether is a good idea.
I hate smoking, said Boone Hospital Center visitor Jean Schulze. I think it should be banned everywhere. I just think itâ€™s really bad for your health. Itâ€™s killing my sisters.
Third Ward council member Donna Crockett said that, as far as she knows, there are no plans to change the current city regulations.