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Hospital alarm system will sound when people light up

An alarm-and-loudspeaker system at a Scottish hospital is designed to shame seditious smokers and stem the smattering of cigarette butts.

The trial alarm will be installed at the hospital's main entrance.
Forth Valley Royal Hospital

Calling itself one of the most modern and well-equipped hospitals in all of Europe, Scotland's 2-year-old and $480 million Forth Valley Royal Hospital is hoping that a new alarm system will help deter smokers who continue to ignore no-smoking signs outside the main entrance.

The alarm, which is followed by a presumably shaming loudspeaker message to stop breaking the rules, is sensitive enough to be triggered by a single smoker lighting up. A representative of the company that installed the machine said in a hospital statement that its purpose is twofold: to encourage better health and to keep the hospital grounds tidier.

"Despite warning signs telling patients, visitors, and staff that smoking is banned in the hospital ground, people continue to smoke," according to the statement. "It is a constant battle picking up discarded tabs."

The hospital says roughly 30 percent of the local adult population smokes (above the national average of 25 percent) and that in 2010, nearly 3,000 people in Scotland's Forth Valley died from smoking-related illnesses. The Scottish government has charged the hospital with helping 5,000 people in Forth Valley quit smoking by March 2014. In 2011, facility personnel apparently helped roughly 1,600 people permanently put out their cigarettes.

Meanwhile, hospitals elsewhere in the world are starting to enforce bans on smoking anywhere on hospital grounds, including one hospital in Canada that, starting April 1, will even ban smoking in the hospital system's parking lots and bus shelters.

If the alarm at Forth Valley helps cut down the number of smoking instances at the hospital's main entrance, the hospital will install others at various points around the hospital perimeter.

While Forth Valley Director of Public Health Anne Maree Wallace said she's has no doubts that "the vast majority of staff, patients, and visitors want a smoke-free environment, and agree that people smoking outside hospital entrances is unacceptable," it remains to be seen which will prove more annoying to the staff and patients: cigarette smoke at the entrance or the sounding of the alarm.