Woman wants smokers to get butts off her property

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tamela Jones is unhappy with Southeast Missouri Hospital's smoke-free policy. Hospital visitors are being directed to light up at nearby public sidewalks.

"As a smoker, I understand the indoor smoking ban and that non-smokers shouldn't have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get in somewhere," she said.

But Jones, 44, added that too many smokers are choosing the walk in front of her North Sunset Boulevard home and tossing cigarette stubs on her lawn.

"I'm empathizing with these poor people with sick family member, who are waiting two or three hours," Jones said. She smokes a pack to a pack-and-a-half of cigarettes daily.

"I don't throw cigarette butts in my own yard. I really don't appreciate other people doing that," she said.

Southeast Missouri Hospital instituted a ban on all tobacco products in its buildings, grounds and parking lots on Sept. 1, 2006. At the same time, designated smoking spaces for visitors, patients and employees were eliminated.

A written statement issued Thursday by hospital spokeswoman Sally Owen said, "this action is in keeping with Southeast's mission to improve the health of those we serve, not only patients, families and visitors, but also those who work at Southeast."

For a year, the hospital has offered free nicotine replacement products to patients and provided tobacco cessation classes to employees and others.

"A year has passed, and we are now going to take a more active approach toward enforcing the policy," the statement read.

Jones said she spoke with hospital security officers who were "very cordial" but suggested she call Cape Girardeau's police department for complaints about the loitering smokers.

"To me, that's a frivolous phone call, as long as those folks are standing on a public sidewalk" she said. "But they were throwing cigarette butts on my yard. I don't want 20 people gathering in front of my yard every day."

Jones said she'd rather see the designated smoking space on Southeast Missouri Hospital's property. But, judging from the hospital's statement, that's not likely to happen.

"It is not the hospital's intent to take away an individual's right to smoke or use tobacco," the hospital's statement said. "We are simply asking that tobacco not be used on hospital properties."

Jones said she feels for the smokers who light up near her lawn, but "I definitely don't want to confront them."

The hospital statement indicated regret for "any problems this may have created for some of our neighbors; however, hospital staff is limited to tobacco policy enforcement on hospital properties only."

City of Cape Girardeau engineer Kelly Green confirmed the sidewalks on Lacey Street and are in the public right-of-way and are publicly owned.

Southeast Missouri Hospital spokeswoman Sally Owen said the hospital does maintenance on the Lacey Street sidewalk, which runs through hospital property, but has no jurisdiction beyond hospital property.

Saint Francis Medical Center went smoke-free in January 1984, according to spokeswoman Emily Sikes. That policy prohibits smoking in all medical center buildings and within a 50 feet of public entrances.

She said the medical center has designated seven spaces near employee entrances where workers and visitors may smoke.

The Saint Francis policy "is in complete accordance with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations," which regulates hospitals, she said.

pmcnichol@semissouran.com

335-6611, extension 127

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