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BMC, BUMC smoking ban brings cigarettes to residential areas

A newly imposed smoking ban at Boston Medical Center and Boston University Medical Center has South End residents frustrated over cigarette trash disposed in their neighborhoods.

After the ban was introduced on the BMC/BUMC campus in April, George Stergios, president of the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association, said he noticed more smokers making the short walk to surrounding commercial and residential streets, where no smoking ban is enforced.

“[Smokers] stand there and smoke there and throw their butts on the ground,” Stergios said. “BMC is in sort of a bind. There are [community] members who have photographed people throwing their butts out there. You can see piles of butts.”

Stergios said the entire South End community is frustrated with the ban.

“[BMC] needs to come to [the] reality that just because there is a smoking ban doesn’t mean everyone will stop smoking that day,” he said. “Unless you want to enforce it, you know, shoo people off our streets — you are being unfair to all of us.”

The smoking ban is part of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Tobacco-Free Hospital Initiative, in which 10 Boston hospitals are participating.

The initiative calls for hospitals to outlaw smoking on their premises and divest all tobacco company stock from their investment portfolios, according to a November 2011 press release from the mayor’s office.

Hospitals offer smoking cessation programs to patients and employees through the initiative.

Massachusetts General Hospital faced similar neighborhood dissatisfaction when they instituted a smoking ban, Stergios said.

To satisfy disgruntled neighbors, MGH implemented two designated smoking areas on North Grove Street and Blossom Street, according to an MGH press release.

BMC has been speaking to its neighbors, according to a BMC statement emailed to The Daily Free Press in August.

“We sincerely apologize that this smoke-free initiative and the actions of a small number of people are negatively impacting our neighbors,” the statement read. “We are committed to resolving these incidents.”

The BMC plays a key role in reducing the hazards of tobacco use and exposure by becoming a smoke-free campus, according to the statement.

“We have asked people not to smoke on the medical campus, but we also have asked them to be respectful of our neighbors and their property,” the statement read. “Instead of suggesting where people can smoke, we offer smoking cessation assistance and treatment programs.”

Stergios said BMC is in a bind about creating smoking shelters and areas.

“Public health made an exception for Mass. Gen., but they would rather not make another exception,” Stergios said.

Some local businesses said they did not notice a change in the streets since the ban took effect.

Kim Austin, assistant manager at Coco Baby, located two blocks from BMC on Washington Street, said she has not seen anything get worse.

“[There’s] not so much change,” Austin said. “I don’t feel there is so much smoking that passes by. Every now and again I smell it really heavy in the store but I don’t think it’s too bad.”

Pat Foster, the director of operations for City Convenience, also said she has not noticed any change in the area close to the 700 Albany St. store that could affect their business.

“It’s not affecting me at all to be honest,” Foster said.

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