The state’s smoking ban was bolstered today when a new law made it illegal to smoke on the grounds of hospital and nursing homes.
Although many hospitals already have outside “smoke-free” areas, the new law will make it illegal to smoke on the properties, including within 15 feet of a building’s entrance or exit and 15 feet from the start or exit of the property of the facility.
The state Department of Health is expected to notify hospitals and nursing homes of the change. Health groups hailed the new ban, saying it codifies many of the hospitals’ own regulations into state law, Gannett’s Ashley Hupfl reports.
“Hospitals really need to set an example of promoting health, not just treating illness, so we think it’s great that they are going to be smoke-free for their workers and their visitors. Especially for the patients who are vulnerable to any kind of respiratory illness,” said Michael Burgess, state advocacy director for the American Cancer Society.
In 2003, the state Clean Indoor Act prohibited smoking indoors in almost all workplaces, which included hospitals, residential health-care facilities, restaurants and bars. Since then, the state has moved to impose stricter non-smoking measures to include outside areas.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffe, D-Suffern, Rockland County, who co-sponsored the bill along with Sen. Jack Martins, R-Nassau County, said she has visited many hospitals and nursing homes and was unhappy to see staff and visitors smoking just outside the doors.
“I felt it was important to ensure that when you walk out of a health-care facility, like a hospital or a nursing home, you are in a smoke-free environment and your health is protected,” Jaffe said.
There are exceptions to the new non-smoking law. Nursing-home patients are allowed to smoke in a designated area or building on the grounds, but it cannot be within 30 feet of a building.
The new law does not prohibit smoking in a private car on a facility’s grounds, but some hospitals have their own policy against it. Smokers must follow hospitals’ or nursing homes’ policies along with the new law. The state law sets a minimum requirement; hospitals may have stricter rules of their own.
Electronic cigarettes and electronic inhalers that are used to simulate tobacco smoking are not included in the new law.
The penalties for violating smoking rules have not changed. Businesses are still subject to a civil penalty up to $2,000 per violation if people are lighting up in non-smoking areas. Penalty amounts will grow if there are multiple violations in one year, according the Healthcare Association of New York State.