Cigarette smokers hoping to get their fix outside a Nashville hospital could soon be out of luck.
A proposed Metro Council ordinance would ban smoking on all hospital property and public rights of way — including city sidewalks — within 50 feet of a hospital entrance in Davidson County.
As outlined in the bill, some hospitals have provided Metro written requests to extend the ban to prohibit smoking within 200 feet of entrances. They are: Vanderbilt University Medical Center (including Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital); St. Thomas Hospital; and Baptist Hospital.
“It’s not necessarily great for a patient to walk into a hospital and have to go past a crowd of folks who are standing on the sidewalk smoking,” Councilwoman Burkley Allen, the bill’s lead sponsor, told The City Paper.
“It’s just an attempt to extend their smoking bans — institutions that are dedicated to helping keep people healthy,” she said.
The hospital smoking ban is set for to go before the council for the first of three votes Tuesday, March 6.
According to the council’s attorney Jon Cooper, a smoker who violates the hospital smoking restriction could be subject to a $50 fine. The legislation says signs are to be posted in areas where smoking is banned.
Allen, a first-term councilwoman who represents the Vanderbilt area, said hospital officials approached her about introducing the legislation. Her bill follows a new state law that authorizes local municipalities to enact smoking bans in areas immediately outside a hospital.
Allen said Nashville hospitals already ban smoking on hospital property. Effectively, her proposal would apply the ban to public grounds that border a hospital’s property. “This just gives them the authority to bring [the ban] out to the sidewalk,” she said.
John Howser, assistant vice chancellor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said several years ago Vanderbilt’s medical center instituted a policy that set boundaries around the medical campus to define where people could smoke and where they couldn’t.
Under the university’s smoking ban, he said the medical center’s eastern border is 21st Avenue and the southern boundary is Blakemore Avenue. The northern and western boundaries overlap with the university’s campus, he said.
“What we’re having difficulty with are areas at the edge of or just within these boundaries, where we’re having difficulty patrolling or maintaining safe zones for our patients,” Howser said. “That’s where this legislation seeks to give us some additional authority.”
Council members Jason Holleman and Edith Langster, who both have hospitals in their districts, are co-sponsoring the bill.
“Obviously, smoking isn’t good for human health, and hospitals of all places should be places that help people get better, not get sick,” Holleman said.