Doctors, nurses smoking during work hours

I smoked cigarettes for many years and was largely oblivious to the stale tobacco odors that permeated my body, my hair and my clothes. Once in a while, non-smoking partners would complain about the smell, but I shrugged it off. Such is the nature of smokers. Such is the addiction of nicotine. Smokers’ need for a fix too often trumps everybody else’s concerns.

It wasn’t until after I quit smoking in 2008 that I realized just how strong, and how bad, those lingering body odors are. If you’re a non-smoker, you no doubt know exactly what I am talking about. If you are near anyone who has had a smoke recently, you smell them before you see them.  I’ve used bank ATMs that wreaked of tobacco after smokers before me had used them. Sometimes the smell is so strong — say, someone who had a smoke before entering a small room — it pollutes the whole area.

Still, we have to put up with it because smoking is not illegal yet. So, we just screw up our noses and try to move away from the offending odors. But it’s not so easy to do that when you are lying in a hospital bed and the nurse attending you has recently had a smoke. I encountered a few such nurses in my recent medical adventure.

It’s not for me to judge, but you’d think hospitals would have a rule prohibiting nurses and doctors from smoking during work hours. There are all sorts of smoking cessation aids, like Nicorettes, that one can take to quell the nicotine cravings during long airplane journeys and such. The medical staff could use them during their shifts, and smoke at home later.

Better still, maybe hospitals should be doing more to help their employees kick the habit. Duh . . .

Enough said.

— Jillian

18 thoughts on “Doctors, nurses smoking during work hours

  1. A former Dr of mine, head of the Royal Edward “Chest”(now Super H MUHC) was a 2 pack-a-day guy. Died of YKW(youknowhat). So much for CMA sanctions. %O Loved what your surgeon said about “getting paid!!!” Don’t you just luv their sense of humour %D


    1. Oh, ya. They are all comedians. I guess you have to have a wry sense of humour in that line of work — not unlike the jaded humor of we copy editors who become almost immune to the bad-news stories we handle every day.


  2. When I was hospitalized for months, I had a couple of nurses who smelled of tobacco. I asked the nursing supervisor to not assign them to my room as the cigarette smell was very offensive.

    I think one of them got mad and gave me a sponge bath with ice water a few days later..


  3. Statistically (yes, love, that involves math), doctors and other health care professionals are much less likely to smoke than the average person. They also overall practice what they preach about healthy lifestyles (except working too much). One of my favourite surgeons did smoke heavily – until he had that heart attack. He survived, but he considered that to be a very strong message to stop smoking and did so.


    1. WS, since you are a highly respected member of the medical community, could you suggest to the higher-ups that they institute a policy requiring staff on duty to not smoke at all, but instead use a smoking-cessation aid like Nicorettes gum to control the cravings?


      1. Unfortunately I would think you have to get the lawyers involved. Then smoking becomes the lesser of 2 evils %O


      2. Glad you feel I am highly respected.

        There are two issues, legal and moral. Imagine if your employer started telling you that about your free time.
        1. Legally, can the hospital mandate what employees do on their free time, which includes breaks.
        2. Moral, can the hospital mandate what employees do on their free time, which includes breaks.

        Does the fact that you don’t like something justify forbidding another person to do it, if it doesn’t physically harm you. I realize that seems to be modern life “I’m offended, therefore it must be banned.” Considering many life facts about you, and also choices you’ve made (note I’m differentiating those two groups), and how many people might be “offended” by them, are you sure you like the idea of governments or employers having that power?


      3. Good points. Then how about having the medical staff shower after having a smoke, brush their teeth and put on fresh attire so that they will not reek of tobacco when they tend to the patients?


      4. WS said: “Does the fact that you don’t like something justify forbidding another person to do it, if it doesn’t physically harm you”

        This is bullshit. I have had two non-smoking relatives die from second-hand smoke, so don’t think that there is no harm to me.

        Hospitals in Boston forbid any smoking by anyone on their property. Why would this be a problem at any hospital?


      5. @ws icky isn’t it. But I would make the observation that in the present “democratic” environment(governments,corporations,NGOs,population) $$ talks. But then, it always has. Sword of Damocles


      6. Steve Mann:
        Sorry about your relatives. Second hand smoke is indeed heinous. However that applies to smoking in the presence of another person, in the same room. It does not apply to the stench of smoke on your body or cloths.


  4. I would love to quit smoking. I’ve tried cold turkey and lasted maybe a week. Tried Well but in and Chantix; that was an interesting experience. I had absolutely no emotions or cares. A good friend of mine died and I didn’t care. I was a zombie for 4 weeks. Have tried the gums and they just made me sick. The patches worked, but I can’t deal with the muscle aches and skin reactions I have to them.


    1. Steven, I found it was mostly about motivation. One has to be very motivated to quit. In my path to quitting cigarettes, first I cut down to the mildest and lowest-nicotine brand on the market. After a while, I cut my intake down to just 5 or 6 a day. Then I stopped the cigs, chewed Nicorette gum only when I absolutely had to — when the nicotine withdrawal effects were impairing my ability to drive or work or whatever. The gum cleared my head instantly. I only had to use it for about two months, then was able to drop it.

      I seldom get cravings anymore — I quit in 2008 — but sometimes when I see an actor smoking as part of a role in a movie or such, I get a slight craving. So I simply pretend I am holding a smoke, purse my lips, and inhale like I am smoking. Surprisingly, it really works. The craving disappears.

      Good luck with quitting.


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