MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Some hospitals have banned smoking inside a person's own vehicle if it's on hospital property, a step viewed as logical by the anti-smoking movement but repugnant to its critics.
George Koodray, New Jersey coordinator for the Citizens Freedom Alliance, says many see this as the beginning -- and easiest part -- of a growing encroachment of government into people's private lives.
While a handful of states ban smoking in cars if there are minors inside, the move by hospitals to prohibit any puffs behind the wheel represents new territory for those seeking a smoke-free environment.
The ban is part of the more widely recognized effort by hospitals to prohibit lighting up inside or outside the building, out of public health concerns. The American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation in Berkeley, Calif., counts more than 1,200 with campuswide bans.
No exact count is kept on which hospitals extend the ban to inside a car or truck, but an Associated Press check of hospitals in Alabama and elsewhere found that a number do.
At Mizell Memorial in Opp in south Alabama, smokers in cars get a gentle reminder. Spokeswoman Renee LeMaire says if they have their door open or smoke is seen coming out of a window, officials approach and remind them of the smoking ban.
Sean Johnson, who handles security at Helen Keller Hospital in Florence, says he doesn't hunt for people smoking in cars, but approaches the vehicle if he sees someone or receives a report of a
person lighting up in their car.
He says he treats the smokers as he would want to be treated while warning them of the hospital's smoking policy.
Rick Wade, senior vice president of the American Hospital Association, says he had not heard of hospitals banning smoking in cars, but he understands why the action was taken.
Roger Swafford of Forces Alabama, a smoker's rights group, says the smoking ban demonstrates the hospital's complete lack of concern for their patients.
Swafford says visitors that are smokers and willing to adhere to
the hospital policy will likely shorten visits. He also says hospitals should have a designated area for visitors and staff members who choose to use a legal product.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)