Questions have been raised over how a smoking ban outside hospitals in North Wales will be enforced.
The issue of people smoking in the grounds of the region’s three main hospitals has reared its head on a number of occasions.
Most recently, a Wrexham politician branded the dozens of discarded cigarette butts dumped outside the Maelor Hospital as ‘disgusting’ after posting a picture of them on Twitter.
While hospitals in the area already have a no-smoking policy in place, it is currently difficult for staff to take action.
As a result, the Welsh Government is planning to introduce tougher legislation later this year.
The region’s health board has set out its intention to start teaming up with local authorities to issue fines to people caught going against the ban in a bid to stamp out the problem.
However, one senior figure has queried how effective the move is likely to be.
Speaking at a meeting of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board on Thursday, vice chair Marian Wyn Jones said: “The new regulations will come into force and we talk about the need to work with local authorities to agree how we’re going to enforce those measures.
“We all know there are signs up and we’ve all had experience of going through the hospital doors and people are smoking away.If it was easy it would already have been done.”
A number of steps are being taken to reduce the amount of people who smoke in North Wales after it was revealed that five per cent of all hospital admissions for people aged 35 and over are caused by cigarettes.
One new approach being trialled at HMP Berwyn in Wrexham sees prisoners provided with nicotine replacement therapy as part of a 12 week programme to help them quit.
But the move to fine smokers on hospital grounds also comes at a time when environmental enforcement in the area is in a state of flux. It was recently revealed that no fines have been issued for littering or dog fouling in Wrexham since Kingdom Services left the county.
The controversial external firm’s tactics proved unpopular among members of the public, but the council has yet to introduce its proposed replacement service.
Teresa Owen, executive director of public health, said some ideas had been shared by representatives from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
However, she admitted she was unsure how the crackdown would work in practice.
Speaking at the meeting in Llandudno, she said: “With the options that we’ve got for enforcement, we’ve got to make sure that we enforce against it within the legislation.
“I don’t know how we’re going to be doing it at the moment, but we had interesting conversations with Cardiff and Vale as they’ve been trying things out, but it is difficult because there’s a cost.
“In Cardiff they did try it out but it was supervised enforcement that was two hours a week and that isn’t enough.
“This isn’t going to be overnight but the message this gives out to the public will hopefully help.
“While people are still smoking we know that contributes to issues in our communities.”
At the end of the meeting, board members agreed to support the measures being taken to meet the new regulations.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).