Smoke-free zone

Our view: City Council should support a ban on smoking around hospital entrances

November 30, 2008

Gregory F. Schaffer, president of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, has tried to corral smokers at outdoor shelters on the institution's sprawling campus. But smokers have chosen instead to light up on sidewalks and streets outside the hospital. Now, Mr. Schaffer is taking a different approach. He is supporting a proposed law that would ban smoking outside Baltimore hospitals. Secondhand smoke can be lethal, and for a medical center that has treated nearly 700 outpatients at its Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in a recent 12-month period, a ban coincides with Bayview's mission. After all, Mr. Schaffer is in the business of healing people.

And nicotine lovers at Bayview and other city hospitals should recognize the impact of their habit on visitors, employees and patients.

The bill, introduced by Councilman Robert W. Curran, the author of Baltimore's law banning smoking in bars and restaurants, would allow hospitals in the city to provide a smoke-free zone from their doors to the curb. Many of their suburban counterparts haven't needed a law to accomplish the same thing, because they are located on campuses where they control the roads and parking lots. The Maryland Hospital Association says 40 of its members have similar outdoor bans.

For the health and safety of hospital workers and guests, the City Council should approve the bill. The movement to restrict smoking and protect nonsmokers from its dangerous effects has forced many to quit and others to retreat to their homes, cars and the occasional bar to get their nicotine fix. Smoking is hazardous to one's health, and the fewer people who are exposed to it, the healthier the city will be.

Council members should join Mr. Curran, a reformed smoker, and approve the bill. It's a vote in everyone's interest.

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