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Smokers discuss stricter smoking proposal at Huntsville Hospital

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville Hospital is considering some more strict rules for smokers. Hospital leaders have written a new ordinance for city leaders to vote on.

For people wanting a smoke at Huntsville Hospital, their option right now is a four-foot strip of sidewalk at a construction site across the street.

"But this is it, you got no other option," said Randy Tucker, who was trying to smoke before going to visit a relative at the hospital.

Smokers already know where not to go. Not by the door, not at the bus stop, and not on the roof. "You try it and the security guard stops you and says, 'No smoking in the parking area'," Tucker said.

"I would like to go somewhere and hang out and ruminate and cogitate and fumigate," said Paul Strickland who was bringing his mother home after surgery.

Smokers don't want sympathy per se, just a dry place to smoke where they won't be hassled.

"And we've only got a time frame we're allotted anyway," Kim Balkenbush said. "If someone's going in for surgery or in recovery, we adapt to our loved ones and take just that moment for ourselves." Balkenbush was visiting a loved one in the hospital.

Huntsville Hospital leaders are now considering a few more nicotine no-no's with some changes to its smoking ordinance.

"You know the lengths a smoker will go to. If it's 15 below zero, they're going to have to have a cigarette," Tucker said.

The new ordinance would make smoking off limits on every street and sidewalk that touches the health system campus. But it's also the second largest hospital in the state of Alabama, so it's reasonable to assume you have to give the smokers somewhere to go. The new ordinance states the hospital must set up two designated smoking areas, one in the main building, the other in the women and children's center.

"It's hard to please everybody, but they need to work with everybody as well," Balkenbush said.

Smokers say they'd gladly support a private smoking area. The matter now has to be approved by the city. There'll be a public hearing about the smoking rules at Monday's city council meeting.  Huntsville Hospital leaders would not comment on this story. The following is the proposed smoking ordinance changes.