City enters fight with hospital smokers
A grey haze of cigarette smoke still covers the entrances to Surrey Memorial Hospital and its cancer clinic – despite a new Surrey bylaw prohibiting smoking anywhere on the property.
The bylaw amendment, passed by council on Monday night, carries a $100 fine for people caught smoking anywhere on the hospital property.
However on Tuesday, hospital security was more interested in evicting protesters and media than quelling the smoke.
"It's nothing more than I've seen in the last two-and-a-half years," said recovering cancer patient Glen Morris of any no-smoking enforcement efforts.
Fraser Health Authority (FHA) initiated a no-smoking policy on its property in 2008, but FHA Medical Officer Helena Swinkels told The Leader Tuesday that enforcement has been an issue.
Security guards can and have been clearing out smokers, but there's been no way to keep them from coming back – until Surrey passed its bylaw.
Swinkels said it will likely be sometime in early January when Fraser Health begins rolling out its plan of action, which will include enforcement, education and solutions for smoking cessation.
South Surrey's David Thiele raised the alarm in October that smoking at the B.C. Cancer Agency's Fraser Valley Centre in North Surrey was turning the entranceway into a smoke pit.
Several people, including hospital staff, were smoking outside the building, which is part of Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) property.
Morris, also a patient at the 13750 96 Ave. cancer facility, has long been fighting to get compliance to FHA rules not to smoke anywhere on the property since May 10, 2010.
On Tuesday, he was standing outside the cancer centre with a sign that read, "Stop smoking at the B.C. Cancer Centre."
"I don't have any hope that smoking there is going to stop," he says.
The bylaw Surrey council passed on Monday night makes smoking outside the clinic unlawful and punishable by a fine of not less than $100 and up to $2,000.
The city previously introduced a bylaw in 2008 banning smoking within 7.5 meters of any door, window, or vent of a building. The new bylaw matches FHA policy and covers the entire property of Surrey Memorial Hospital and the Jim Pattison Outpatient and Surgery Centre, located a few blocks away.
City staff say the plan is to have hospital security personnel attempt to rid public areas of smokers.
On Tuesday, security guards evicted Morris and a Leader photographer from the property.
If security is unsuccessful in getting the smokers to butt out, they – or the public – can now call city bylaw department, and bylaw officers will come and issue tickets.
However, Surrey's 17 bylaw officers are also stretched thin.
In the first quarter of this year, Surrey bylaw officers had five smoking complaints, which was less than 0.1 per cent of all 5,545 bylaw enforcement actions during that time.
Surrey's bylaw enforcement manager Jas Rehal said he's had some calls recently from Fraser Health about smoking issues, but no tickets have been issued as of yet.
"If there's a lot of complaints, we get involved and we get a look at it," Rehal said.
Swinkels said patients and visitors should notice a difference starting in January.