Written by Ruth Hellerud-Brown, Project Lead, Healthy Living/Healthy Communities

Over the next six months, teams of Fraser Health staff and site security officers will be patrolling the grounds of Surrey Memorial, Royal Columbian, Chilliwack General, and Abbotsford Regional Hospitals.

No one should ever have to walk through a haze of cigarette smoke to get into a hospital.

That’s the message Fraser Health tobacco enforcement officers, site leaders and security staff are delivering with a new site smoke-free enforcement initiative.

And it’s a message many Fraser Health employees – even smokers themselves – are ready for, the team found on their recent rounds.

Take Jill Keene, who works at Surrey Memorial Hospital. Jill is a responsible smoker. The team found her off the edge of the hospital’s property by the sidewalk for her cigarette break during one of their enforcement rounds.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Jill said of Fraser Health’s Smoke-Free Policy, which prohibits smoking on all of our sites, properties, parking lots and grounds. “Just because someone smokes, doesn’t mean everybody has to.”

Jill said she makes a conscious decision to move off the property before lighting up to protect the health of patients, visitors and staff. 

“It’s something that I’ve always done," Jill explained. "I don’t like my smoke going in people’s faces. I’m just courteous of other people. They don’t smoke. It can cause health problems, as we know, and if you are smoking beside them, they should have a choice.”

Tobacco enforcement officers, together with site leadership and security, will be rotating between four sites: Surrey Memorial Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital, Chilliwack General Hospital and Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre for the next six months. They will be speaking to staff and visitors seen smoking on our property and handing out warning notices letting people know that smoking on our sites is prohibited under our policy and under B.C. law.

“Enforcement is just another pillar in our multi-pronged plan to go completely smoke-free,” said Connie Banting, coordinator, tobacco and vapour products control.

She added that the regional tobacco working group has also been helping sites implement Smoke-Free Policy via training for front-line staff, the development of clinical support tools, and creation of public awareness materials.

Non-smoking employees the team encountered also voiced their support.

Surrey Memorial Hospital pharmacy technician Elizabeth Shaji said she was frustrated to see “people are smoking even in smoke-free areas.” So when she saw someone smoking outside a pediatric area she spoke up.

“I told him, 'This is not a smoking area.' and he left,” Elizabeth said. Although she had worried he might get upset, the man simply moved on.

“Approaching smokers doesn’t have to be confrontational; just a quick reminder of the policy can do wonders,” said Thasneem Sandi, coordinator, tobacco and vapour products control. “We are not asking people to quit, but simply to keep the air clean for everyone in our facilities by smoking off our property.”

Learn more about Fraser Health’s Smoke-Free Policy and how you can get involved on our Smoke-Free Policy FH Pulse page.


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