Children Want Protection From Tobacco Smoke Near Hospitals

A recent study from the Netherlands surveyed people about their opinion of a smokefree zone around a university hospital. Nearly 90% of children support smokefree hospital grounds.

April 13, 2022

Avery Crosley

Have you ever had to walk past people smoking near a hospital entrance? Many of us want to breathe smokefree air not just inside the hospital but also outside on hospital grounds. A new law in the Netherlands wants to protect patients at university hospitals from exposure to tobacco smoke. The law mandates that all university grounds, including university hospitals, be smokefree. This research surveyed 563 people at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, including employees, students, and child patients, to better understand how they felt about the planned smokefree zone around the hospital. There were two surveys: one focused on child patients at the hospital and the other concentrated on adults. The authors compared the responses of the 96 child patients ages 4-16 to the responses of the adults.  

The researchers found that more than 90 % of children are regularly exposed to tobacco smoke outside on the streets, and 89 % thought that nobody should be allowed to smoke near the hospital. The children generally disapproved of smoking around hospital grounds and felt that doctors and nurses should set an example for other individuals to not smoke. Almost 90 % of children felt that doctors and nurses should not smoke around the hospital, while about 75% of adults, patients, employees, visitors, and students said there should be no smoking on hospital grounds. Other studies found that “broadcasting children’s opinion of smoking near hospital entrances helped reduce smoking in these places.” This research showed that children want smokefree zones more than adults near hospitals. While this study focused on children in the Netherlands, replicating this research in other regions of the world may help advance the discussion of enhanced smokefree zones around hospitals. 

Although the authors do not emphasize this point, 90 % of children felt that doctors and nurses should not be allowed to smoke near the hospital, yet over 60 % of children felt they should be able to smoke at home. This finding suggests that children view secondhand smoke as unhealthy and do not want to be exposed in and near the hospital, but fewer children believe they can tell doctors and nurses what to do at home. Research on thirdhand smoke has shown that smokers can transfer tobacco smoke pollutants into hospitals, even highly protected areas such as neonatal intensive care units. To protect vulnerable patients in hospitals from exposure to tobacco smoke pollutants, smokefree policies need to be implemented that address secondhand and thirdhand sources of pollutants. The opinion of children is relevant because they represent the next generation. Enforcement of smokefree zones around hospitals is just one element of ending tobacco exposure; children are important stakeholders to help plan future smokefree areas everywhere. 

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Click here to read the research study

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